7 min read
This story originally appeared on PCMag
Game streaming has rapidly become one of the more popular ways to make money on the internet. However, it’s hard to know where to start. Amazon-owned Twitch dominates the market, so there are few legitimate alternatives. In late July, Microsoft’s Mixer shut down, making YouTube Gaming one of the only viable options. If you want to give it a try, this guide will show how to set up your channel and get on camera.
Set up your channel
YouTube Gaming has taken a few different forms over the years, but most recently it lives as an alternate tab in the usual YouTube interface. For our purposes, that means you don’t need to download any special apps to stream. If you have a YouTube account (which is tied to your Google account), then you already have everything you need.
However, you’ll need to verify your account before you can get started. Head to this link while you’re logged in. You’ll be asked to enter a code sent via text message or, if you prefer, via a phone call. Enter this code and your account will be verified. In addition to enabling live streaming, this will also allow you to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, add custom thumbnails to your videos, and appeal Content ID claims if necessary.
Set up your broadcast
Next, you’ll need to get your broadcast software set up. There are a few options, but we’ll be using Streamlabs OBS for this guide, as it’s one of the easier and more robust tools for streaming your games. While some features, like streaming to multiple platforms at once, is limited to the app’s Prime subscription, the free version is powerful enough to handle most of what you’ll need to do.
Once you install the app and log into your streaming account, you’ll be able to start creating scenes. A scene in Streamlabs is a specific arrangement of sources that you broadcast to your audience. By creating multiple scenes, you can save yourself the hassle of rebuilding a particular collection of sources every time you start a stream.
For example, you can have one scene for typical game streaming, one for hanging out, and a special setup if you run a fundraiser or other event. This is similar to how Discord works with multiple channels.
A typical scene can include your game and a webcam feed, but you can add subscription alerts, goal counters, overlays, and a ton more. Streamlabs uses a layer system to place elements on top of each other, and each one can be resized and moved around on the fly. If you find that your webcam feed is covering an important part of your game mid-stream, you can move or resize it.
You’ll also find a collection of audio inputs under the Mixer section. This includes things like your desktop audio and any microphones you have plugged in. If you add any elements with audio components, they’ll show up here as well. You can adjust their relative volume levels to keep your presentation clean.
For example, Streamlabs includes an Alertbox widget that pops up a notification when you get a new follow, subscription, or donation. These usually make a noise, and you can turn down the volume on these so they don’t overwhelm your stream audio.
Time to start streaming
Once you’ve got a scene set up to your liking, it’s time to go live. Streamlabs can broadcast to Twitch, YouTube Gaming, or Facebook Gaming. If you subscribe to Streamlabs Prime, you can broadcast to all of them at once.
To start a stream, click the green Go Live button at the bottom of the screen.
Image credit: Streamlabs
Before you actually go live, you’ll be asked to enter some basic information about the stream you’re starting. YouTube Gaming will have you enter the title of the stream and a brief description. You can also add the stream to an existing event, if you have one.
You can also link your Twitter account to automatically send a tweet notifying your followers that you’re going live. This is especially handy if you have followers on Twitter who don’t get notifications on your streaming platform of choice.
Once you go live, the chat window on the right side of Streamlabs will pop out. This will let you keep an eye on the chat while you stream and moderate any messages or annoying trolls that come through. If you have a second monitor, it’s generally a good idea to keep this app open on it while you stream so you can identify any issues and resolve them quickly when you’re live.
Since monetizing YouTube streams are tied to your regular YouTube account, the same requirements to activate monetization features apply. Your channel will need to be part of the YouTube Partner Program, which means you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months, as well as pass a review from YouTube staff.
Once you reach that point, you can enable ads on your stream, including pre-roll ads that run before someone watches your stream, mid-roll ads that interrupt it, and overlay ads that show up as banners, all of which will generate revenue. If you’re a gaming channel, you can also enable channel memberships, which allow your followers to pay a monthly fee to receive perks you dole out (non-gaming channels must reach 30,000 subscribers to unlock this feature).
For gaming content, there are certain restrictions on the content that can be monetized. Some game publishers can restrict streamers from making money using their games, especially if the stream consists of nothing but gameplay. In general, you should do the following to make sure your content qualifies for monetization:
Add something transformative to the stream. This commonly includes a webcam, though it can also simply be running audio commentary. The commentary must generally relate to what you’re showing on screen. Off-topic conversation is fine, but you might get demonetized, for example, if you slap an audio track of your Game of Thrones opinions over footage of Valorant. Likewise, if the bulk of the video is you playing the game in silence with no camera, you risk getting flagged.
Play games with a valid broadcast license. Many publishers allow — or even encourage! — players to stream their games, but some do not. They may want to prevent spoilers, or simply don’t want others commercializing their game. YouTube respects this policy by disabling monetization on games where publishers have not provided a license for commercial use. While most popular games are usually safe, it’s best to do a quick search before you start your stream.
With all this in mind, you’re ready to start streaming! YouTube Gaming in particular offers a lot of flexibility to build on an existing YouTube channel or community and develop your following. If you’re looking for a Twitch alternative, it’s not a bad place to start.