Having the greatest stream in the world doesn’t matter if nobody can find it. That’s where category and tag selection comes into play. Different categories have different audiences and demographics and those viewers are going to have different expectations for your stream.
Plan of Attack!
This article is going continue our How to Stream on Twitch series by helping you find your niche, specialization, community, or whatever it is that makes you unique in the ocean of Twitch streamers. We’re going to start by discussing some of methods used to find your niche before moving onto the types of categories, tags and communities that exist within the Twitch-o-sphere.
What do you enjoy doing? or maybe what is it you think would be entertaining to watch?
Those are both great questions to ask yourself before you settle in on a particular niche. In fact, you may not have much of an idea about yourself until you get your feet wet. I didn’t.
How I figured it out:
I started by streaming some Dark Souls playthroughs. It was popular to do Let’s Plays of the game at the time because of how difficult it was, but I had taken to the game and was an expert by the time I decided to stream my own playthroughs.
And I didn’t do much commentary.
I was still new and didn’t know what to say or how to casually ramble in a way that didn’t make me sound like I suffer mental illness (…which I do).
I started to get a few viewers here and there and would eventually realize I liked the casual “hanging out” kind of atmosphere my channel provided. That it wasn’t so much that I was a “Dark Souls Streamer” as I was more of an “older minority streamer with political rants and laid back variety gaming”. It’s my niche. My little ecosystem without much competition that I fill a hole for viewers looking for a relatable personality to enjoy and hang out with.
It wouldn’t work with 1,000s of viewers. It can only exist with a small, more dedicated community.
As time went on, I found I was watching more retro streams and playing more retro games on my stream.
It’s a demographic that overlaps the kind of audience I was developing: People that grew up in 80s and 90s and use those games to get away from whatever realities they are facing.
So don’t worry if you don’t have yourself entirely figured out yet. Focus on where you wouldn’t mind settling to begin, with the knowledge that you can always change later, whenever you want. It’s your stream.
Types of Categories
That being said, there are different types of streams to think about that will help you narrow down your selection. I’ll go over a few of the larger categories and then summarize some others that will seem more or less obvious.
Single game streamers focus entirely on one game alone and become the de facto experts on it. This may include speedrunning or randomizers that change game content, mods or casual playthroughs over and over and over while they provide colorful commentary.
RebeccaVersus takes us through each season of solo ranked Overwatch, including all the shitty teams she has to deal with.
If you could see yourself playing the same game for 40 hours a week for the next year and that makes you excited, then single game streaming is for you.
If that sounds horrifyingly restrictive, then you might become a variety streamer. Which is totally okay.
A Variety streamer will play different games on different days of the week or go through periods of random selections they are interested in or whatever is current release that everyone is excited about.
Variety streamers, like retro streamer YogidaMonk, are going to have communities that care less about the game you are playing and care more about you the streamer as their source of entertainment and information.
Your viewers will come to trust your opinions on games and use them as a guide for their own gameplay. This can help financially because twitch now allows you to promote game sales from their own twitch store that can get you affiliate revenue.
Not that single game streamers don’t have revenue sources, ask Ninja.
Gotta Go Fast!
Speedrunning is where a streamer is attempting to tear ass through a game to a certain goal, typically the end, as fast as they can. They can be actively competing with other speedrunners via places like speedrunslive.com. Categories like Any% don’t have many restrictions on how you reach the goal, whereas 100% of pacifist introduce more interesting elements to keep the runs exciting. But the game’s original content doesn’t have to the end for speedrunners, with the recent popularity of randomizer mods you could have a different experience every time you run the game.
Playing through a game casually, commonly referred to as “Let’s Plays” are more laid back and less stressful. You may have some experience with the game before streaming and will talk about that as you progress through it. I did a let’s play through Quake 1 a few years back that I filled with colorful commentary about the development and history of quake and it’s wacky lore.
Never Played It!
Blind playthroughs are streams where you haven’t seen any of the game played and are going in with a blank slate of expectations. This can be scary, especially if it’s a scary game, but not knowing what your content is going to be can be a little nerve wracking for some streamers. However, these nerve wracking events are what keep it exciting for the viewers. Blind playthroughs through games like Dark Souls or Amnesia: The Dark Descent are very popular for this reason.
Streaming your day to day fo’reals life is what made this category infamous. Doesn’t sound like too much of a problem until random internet trolls figure out your physical location or personal details and start calling the police and saying you’ve kidnapped a child and are going to shoot them.
I’m sure IRL can be a great category to stream in. I’m sure there’s some great content there. That’s not my cup of tea however and I’m not the best to do a sales pitch for it since I consider the IRL communities I’ve seen as the lowest filth of the earth.
Best to be avoided until you are more comfortable streaming.
What differentiates a creative stream from an IRL stream is that there is an expectation of work being produced live for the audience.
Think Bob Ross or Julia Child.
But don’t let those limit you, I’m streaming the writing of this very article under the Creative category! You can also find audiobook narrators, cross stitchers, Perler bead art, coloring books and even professional body painters like Kay Pike.
There are also plenty of musicians that use the creative category, one of my favorite being Elvann who jams out on a harp!
Music, DJing, sculpting, political rants, talk shows, ASMR and cosplay!
Really though, anything can be streamed if you think long enough about it and can find a community that wants to see it. A good rule of thumb is:
There is always someone willing to watch.
I’ve even streamed juggling!
Sculpting and political rants aren’t even considered strange at this point. Talk shows, ASMR and social eating have become popular. I even follow a Lithuanian DJ!
Tagging and Communities
These are new, well tagging is, I think they dropped communities entirely. Didn’t they? Maybe. I don’t see them. Looks like they are dead.
Twitch is always trying to improve the communities which build up around their streamers, keep an eye here or the Twitch Blog for all the new ways streamers can connect with viewers.
You can stream anythinnnnnng on twitch. If you have any ideas for streams that you might have questions about leave them below, or if you have any comments! I do love comments.