You may or may not have noticed that last week I didn’t have an article published on Quiet Speculation’s site. This is an extremely rare occurrence—in my eight years writing about Magic finance, I probably average 1-2 weeks per year when I don’t produce an article.
There were two key reasons I skipped last week. First, I was traveling on business for my job. This was my first trip in COVID-19 world, and the stress of the trip was slightly higher than normal as a result. I found myself needing to rent a car and drive eight hours to northeastern Pennsylvania, where I stayed for a full week. I had a tough time focusing enough energy on MTG writing during this week.
The second reason was that I wanted to try engaging in Magic in a completely novel way: by live streaming Magic Arena gameplay on Twitch! This is something I’ve always wanted to try, and being alone in a hotel for a full week seemed like the perfect time to test things out!
This week, I’m going to share a few key takeaways I learned while attempting my first ever stream. After all, with a little success, such practice can be monetized—yet another path one could take to make money from Magic!
Eager and ready, I fired up Arena last Tuesday night. Chroberry, contributor and editor for Quiet Speculation, gave me some pointers. Our content team pointed me to Streamlabs for setup, a relatively intuitive software with many convenient built-in features to help set up a professional-looking stream.
Since I have been really getting into Arena lately, it seemed like a natural transition to go from avid player to streamer. I figured if I was going to play the game a couple hours a day—especially while traveling for business and having little to do in the evenings—I might as well try generating a following in the process! There’s nothing like killing two birds with one stone, attempting to make a few bucks while doing something I love.
After a couple of false starts, I was up and running! After broadcasting my live streaming status, I immediately had a couple of people join to watch. Before you know it, I was drafting and battling in Standard, talking through all of my picks and plays like the professional streamers do. My audience was modest in size, but highly engaging and I had a blast.
Three hours into the stream, it was time to pack it up and call it a night. I was exhilarated by the experience—I am an extroverted, people-person in general. So being able to once again enjoy Magic while engaging with others in the community (rather than playing online in isolation) really cheered me up. Talking as I played came naturally because I tend to talk out loud while I play anyway!
The successful experience was highly motivating, and I started fantasizing about the potential! Was I onto something here? Would I generate a large enough following/audience to monetize my stream? I had no idea the process would be so simple.
Or was it?
What Didn’t Work
The next day (Wednesday), I found myself once again sitting alone in the hotel in the evening with little to do. Thinking of the successful stream from the night before, I booted up Streamlabs and Arena and started streaming again. This time, I attempted to generate a little more hype by tweeting a couple times in advance, letting followers know my intent to stream that evening.
Two minutes into the process, I realized that Wednesday was not going to bring the same positive experience as Tuesday brought. A friend of mine joined the stream first, and immediately pointed out the poor connectivity. The hotel internet was simply not keeping up with the constant bandwidth draw from both Arena and Streamlabs. We powered through for a little bit, but my video was continuously freezing up and my audio was robot-like.
It didn’t help that I was also communicating through my laptop’s built-in microphone, which contributed to poorer audio quality. A few other folks trickled in, but didn’t stick around. Who could blame them? The stream’s quality was far too poor to host a worthwhile session.
Defeated and deflated, I stopped the stream, tweeted out an apology, and played alone on Arena without an audience.
It was like A Tale of Two Cities: Tuesday and Wednesday brought “the best of times and the worst of times.” Clearly, this streaming thing wasn’t as easy as it initially seemed.
Throughout the process, I learned many valuable lessons that I want to share here, in case readers are thinking of trying out a stream themselves.
- GOOD INTERNET IS KEY!!! – In order to deliver a positive experience for viewers, you must, at a minimum, be able to deliver a quality stream. Without a good internet connection, you have no stream to begin with. No one is going to have the patience to watch a robot-sounding voice talk over gameplay at one frame-per-second frame rate. Hotel internet likely doesn’t cut it!
- Leverage Technology – I watch a few Magic streamers regularly and I’m always impressed by the little things that make their stream look well-polished and deliberate. It turns out those features aren’t only available to Twitch partners. Anyone can download Streamlabs for free and implement widgets to help their stream look professional. It takes a little time playing around with the software to find the right features, but it’s well worth it.
- Stay Positive – A positive attitude is absolutely critical on so many levels. First, if you’re brand new to streaming and have a couple false starts like I did, don’t be discouraged! I was disappointed I couldn’t stream last Wednesday due to internet issues, but I can always try again! During gameplay, it’s also important to put on a positive game face even in the face of mana screw and a losing streak.
- Engage the Community – During my stream, I did my best to respond to the chat whenever I could (it was easy, having only a couple viewers of course). But besides answering viewer questions and making chit chat, I tried to take it one step further by letting viewers pick my next match format. I would say, “The first person to comment can pick whether I play a draft or a Standard draft next.” I believe this audience participation can add a layer of entertainment for viewers, and may motivate them to stick around a little longer to watch the match they asked for. In general, being talkative, explaining picks and plays, and engaging viewers will help build a positive experience for everyone.
- Equipment is a “Nice to Have” – I don’t think I’ll ever get to 100 simultaneous viewers with my current setup. Talking through my computer’s speakers and using my computer’s webcam is a recipe for a lower-quality stream. At the same time, they were sufficient to get started. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to invest $100’s in audio/visual equipment right off the bat. Try out a few sessions of streaming first to see if you like it and if you can connect with your viewers before considering a larger investment. Buying expensive equipment and then not making enough money streaming to pay for said equipment is the equivalent of a failed spec.
- Have Fun! – If you aren’t having fun with the stream, don’t do it. There are other ways to make money from Magic that it’s not worth stressing out over.
Wrapping It Up
Making money from Magic is the equivalent of having one’s cake and eating it too. You get to enjoy the best game of all time while also making some spare cash to help fund the hobby! Historically, I’ve run this grind via speculation, buying and selling cards, and of course writing weekly articles. Recently I attempted a new avenue: streaming.
My first experience was overall positive, but it wasn’t flawless. Being the scientist, I made many observations and took away some valuable insights throughout the process. This week I wanted to share those key takeaways to transparently share what it’s like attempting a first Twitch stream. Hopefully, this provides you with the information and motivation you need to get off the couch and start streaming yourself! I don’t know how hard it is or how long it takes to monetize a stream, but if you’re playing anyway and have positive energy, you may want to give it a try. The initial investment is minimal, and you never know if you’ll have success without trying!
Oh, and if you want to throw me a follow and watch a future stream of mine, please visit www.Twitch.tv/sigfig8 and throw me a follow. In future streams, I plan on talking Magic finance while I play, answering viewer questions and sharing my latest spec targets.
Happy streaming everyone!