Streamers are making a lot of money while entertaining thousands of fans.

Recently, in the brisk downtown of San Francisco, over 20,000 avid video game fans filled all three levels of the Moscone Center to meet and greet with some of the biggest internet personalities. The event was TwitchCon 2015, the first convention ever for the online video game streaming platform, Fans lined up for hours to get a chance to meet and quickly chat with the website’s stars, the streamers who play video game live in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of followers at a time.

If you weren’t aware of this online community, this event might seem odd. What would make someone watch another person play video games, let alone travel to San Francisco to hang out with them in person?

It’s all about Community. This was stressed by most attendees and the event itself. All of Twitch sees itself as a gigantic, close-knit community, centered around video games.

And, to make the comparison, some of the top streamers on Twitch have the entire attendance of this convention watching them at any given time. Professionals of the eSports scene pull in twice that.

ACZeroshift is a streamer and attendee. His channel isn’t huge. He’s been streaming for almost a year and gets about 10 viewers every time he streams. His goal is to get partnered, which is when Twitch starts sharing its ad revenue with the streamers. He’s hoping that TwitchCon will help him grow his channel. He knows that it’s about developing your brand and embracing the community around him, both online and at this event.

Panel at TwitchCon.

How does one grow their stream? Most of the panels and workshops at TwitchCon focused on helping up-and-coming streamers to turn this into a full-time career. Examples included: Your Brand on Twitch, Passion to Paycheck, When Do You Need A Manager? and Improving Fan Funding. Every fan I spoke to was a gamer and had ambitions to make their fledgling channel develop. All these hopefuls dreamt of doing this as a career and packed these sessions. Streaming, for the top channels, is a full-time job, with big money to be made.

Revenue as a streamer comes from a few different sources. Within Twitch, advertisements are played on the host’s channel. If the host is partnered, then they get a cut.

The other two types of revenue are much more community based. For $4.99 a month user can subscribe to a streamer’s channel. Subs, as they are called, are then allowed special access to emotes, fewer chat restrictions, better odds in giveaways and even the opportunity to play games with the streamer.

Behkuhtv, a full-time streamer, after she just received a donation.

Donations, being the other one, are less consistent than subscription revenue, but allow the streamer to make way more money. Spurred on only by a small donate button somewhere on their page, followers donate any amount. These donations are usually attached to a message that will be read on stream, sometimes funny, sometimes a mere thank you.

The numbers of subscribers and donations aren’t available through Twitch. The closest you can get is the amount of followers and views. Both stats would only correlate with income, but seven of the top ten streams are individuals (the other three are popular game channels) with over 1 million followers each. Channel views get up into the hundreds of millions.

“Obviously my subscriber count is very static,” says APlatypuss, a full-time partnered streamer. He spoke with me fairly frankly about the way that he makes money. “I know how much income I'm gonna get from that.” He averages about 500-700 viewers during his stream.

Regarding donations, APlatypuss says that people are very generous some months and not so much the next. “You can't let that bring you down… I had a guy come in, his name is GamingAndAnime, $10,000. Insane.”

APlatypuss uses his high energy stream to attract viewers.

This particular individual is known to have donated similar sums to multiple streamers. Another mysterious big spender is Amhai, who has donated over $50,000 to a streamer named Sodapoppin alone.

The biggest streamers get sponsored by outside companies and promote their products during their broadcasts. Streamer’s pages are dotted with sponsor logos that link out to that site. This, according to APlatypuss, is the by far the most lucrative. “I love selling stuff I can get behind.” But this world is as susceptible to cheaters as the games themselves. Some people out there, he warns, are scammers.

trick2g and Imaqtpie, some of the most watched streamers playing at TwitchCon.

Streamers develop their brand to grow their audience. One way to do that, and make money on the side, includes merchandise. Links to a streamer’s store are present and at TwitchCon, these different streamer’s personally branded shirts were seen all over.

So how much does this full-timer actually make? APlatypuss told me, “I make enough to live in LA… LA is expensive. So, I would say probably above 50k a year.”

Imatqtpie, one of the most watched streamers with easily 30,000 viewers, has reported over $8,000 in just one month.

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With so many avenues for income and such big payouts, it’s clear why the website has over 1.5 million broadcasters. But what’s a channel without someone to watch it? Twitch had the fourth highest peak internet traffic in 2014 and says that more than 100 million “gather every month to broadcast, watch, and talk about video games.” So the people to watch are there. And It is no secret that the video game industry is huge. The money has been trending that way for the last few years and is projected to be near $20 billion by 2019.

Fan meet and greet with DeerNadia, a streamer.

With numbers like this, it’s clear why so many gamers, people who have identified with this culture their entire lives, are trying to make it in this career. It was the shared dream of everyone at TwitchCon, whether they had made it yet or not. And face it, it is hard to beat being able to play games for a living, especially when that living is this lucrative.

Crowd in the Kappa Theater at TwitchCon