Can you really make thousands playing video games from your parents' basement? Some are, and they're doing it on a site called Twitch. Twitch, launched in 2011, is a streaming service with over 140 million active users per month, accruing an estimated $1.54 billion in annual revenue. Although the platform is most known for live video game streaming, Twitch has become a community of its own with users watching their favorite streamers do anything from cook to dance to work out.
Ludwig Ahgren started streaming on Twitch in May, 2018, under the channel name ludwig. Three years later, he's the most subscribed to streamer on Twitch with 246,611 subscribers. Each subscriber pays him $5 a month to watch him play video games, taste test cheeses, or try on costumes with his girlfriend.
Ahgren's subscriber count skyrocked in early March, 2021 when he began a "subathon"— an event in which a streamer performs actions or offers rewards in return for subscriptions. For every additional subscribor, Ahgren rewarded his audience by remaining live a few seconds longer. Eventually, he hit his self-ascribed limit of 31 days and ended the stream.
He revealed that he made at least $100,000 over the course of his 31-day subathon. Ahgren isn't alone in the amount of money he has made streaming. Streamers can make tens of thousands of dollars per month.
So who exactly are these content creaters making boatloads of money working at home playing video games?
Like 98% of the top 100 streamers on Twitch (ranked by the most-watched channels over the last 365 days), Ahgren is male. Despite 35% of viewers on Twitch being female, the top eschelon of streamers remains overwhelmingly male.
One of the rare female streamers in the top 100 is Imane Anys, better known by her channel name Pokimane. Anys began streaming in 2013, playing games like League of Legends and Fortnite.
In terms of her age, she's no anomaly. Along with 36% of top 100 streamers, she's between 23 and 27 years old (24).
Some question the lasting potential of Twitch. Is a business model based around voluntary subscriptions and donations sustainable? Will the lack of diversity on Twitch be its downfall? Will twitch expand to a wider audience beyond gaming? We invite you to think about these questions as you explore the backgrounds, personalities, and stories of the Twitch elite.
Explore the top 100 streamers with our interactive tool. In the chart at the bottom, each section of a streamer's row represents their streams in that month. The color encoding corresponds to the average value of streams in that particular month. The empty spaces in each row signify months in which a streamer did not stream at all.
The data for this visualization was gathered from sullygnome.com, which is a statistics and analytics service for Twitch. SullyGnome uses the Twitch API to collect information on every Twitch streamer with 3 or more viewers, at 15-minute intervals. This data is then aggregated and displayed on the website. The historical data provided by SullyGnome goes as far back as 2015.
We utilized SullyGnome to collect ranking, viewer, and follower data for each of the top 100 Twitch streamers. After cleaning the data, we aggregated it into months, averaging out the statistics from each stream within a given month to get the data points encoded in the chart’s color encodings and the small bar chart for the selected streamer. For each streamer, we also manually collected, through online research, a number of biographical data points (e.g. age and nationality). We linked the data from SullyGnome with the biographical data to create our final dataset.