New pricing means Twitch streamers must work long hours or lose money – and they’re not happy
“It’s instantly made streaming on Twitch more stressful. This number is going to be at the back of my head every day for the next year – I know I’ll receive less money if I take any days off, go on holiday, or fail to reach the threshold for one reason or another.”
That’s Twitch streamer BiggusBennus, one of countless streamers affected by a change to the way Twitch are paying their affiliate and partnered streamers.
It all stems from revisions to the local price of a Twitch subscription. By cutting the price of a subscription to match living costs in each country, streamers will initially lose money. Twitch believes this will be countered by an increase in subscriptions and in the short term they’re offering a top up payment to cushion the impact.
However, this is causing even more problems. To qualify for the full top up, streamers must hit a baseline of streamed hours to be eligible, piling on pressure for streamers to go live as much as possible in order to receive a fair share of the revenue they earn.
And with many marginalised streamers struggling with harassment from hate raids, pricing changes are yet another reason that streamers are becoming increasingly disenfranchised by the streaming platform.
What exactly has changed?
Twitch detailed the changes in a Local Subscription Pricing article.
Subscription prices have been altered to better reflect the cost of living where a subscriber lives. In many countries, this means the cost of a subscription has decreased, which benefits subscribers first and foremost.
“Local subscription pricing helps creators grow their community and revenue as more viewers become supporters over time,” reads the Twitch article.
In the short term, though, lower subscription costs means less money earned by streamers, who earn revenue based on a share of the subscription cost.
Twitch is aware of this, and so has initiated the Creator Revenue Adjustment Incentive.
Says Twitch: “We have designed a program to provide creators with a seamless transition to the new pricing model that shields them from any immediate changes to their revenue.”
Twitch will pay streamers a “revenue adjustment incentive” to cover the difference of the price of subscriptions over the next 12 months. Twitch will initially pay the full difference and then slowly decrease this over time as – theoretically – the number of subscribers should increase.
Twitch has then calculated a baseline for streamers to achieve, based on subscriptions and the average amount of hours streamed from the previous three months. Outperform this baseline and they won’t be eligible for the revenue adjustment.
To receive that adjustment, streamers will need to hit 85 per cent of the average hours streamed.
This is where many streamers are frustrated. As a result of this new payment system, streamers must maintain a set number of hours in order to get paid what they feel they deserve.
Taking time off for a holiday or sickness means streamers are less likely to hit those target hours. Overperform and the pressure is upped to maintain those averages.
And while the baseline numbers will be revised each month, streamers feel unfairly pressured.
What’s the impact for streamers?
BiggusBennus has been set a baseline of 120 hours, based on a special event he ran earlier in the year, unintentionally setting an overly ambitious baseline.
“I appreciate that Twitch is doing this but 120 hours is incredibly unfair,” he says. “It’s based on my streams over the first 6 months of the year when I [streamed for 100 days] and was furloughed from work. We weren’t warned about this until the end of Q2 and as I’m now working again, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to achieve.”
The new system has only upped the confusion with multiple subscription prices across the globe. “It’s impossible to know how much we get paid per subscription now, because Twitch doesn’t make that information available,” says Erinus Shotlock.
“The revenue changes for me have hit the bottom line – in August, I had 20% more subscriptions than in July, but I earned less money overall. I was lucky to beat my baseline revenue level that Twitch set for me, because due to illnesses in the first two weeks of August I wasn’t fit enough to stream.”
MouseIsTaken believes the reduced subscription price is disproportionately affecting smaller streamers who already struggled due to the $100 threshold before any payments are received.
“The offer from Twitch to supplement income is great in theory but in practice it’s completely useless to myself for example,” she says. “In July I streamed 36 hours as it was my first full month in a new job with a new weekend-only stream schedule, I earned enough for a payout (above the $100 threshold).
“In August the Twitch dashboard told me that I could only access the help if I streamed at least 69 hours but earned less than $55. So the only way I could get the help is if I streamed twice as much to earn less than half which makes no sense to me.”
She continues: “Personally this has affected me as with my ‘standard’ monthly support from my community (regular subs) I am no longer receiving a payout each month but I am earning above the low threshold Twitch set to receive revenue adjustment so I am without it. Meaning that unless there is extra support coming in from the community in the form of bits/gift subs, I am left without the payout each month.”
Further, this new payout system has had a major impact on disabled streamers who aren’t always able to maintain certain hours due to chronic conditions.
Thanks @twitch – I'm a chronically ill, disabled streamer – I streamed 36 hours in July – I PUSHED myself, with a week off due to my health in August and I still didn't meet your target.
I cannot physically afford to do this many hours!!! Ridiculous 🙃 pic.twitter.com/srm6qDIlV6
— Jer 🐻 (@JerichoBearicho) September 1, 2021
“I was extremely ill through August and I had to take a week off streaming,” explains Jericho. “I should have taken more off but I wanted to hit my baseline hours, so I pushed myself. I streamed more days and hours than I’d planned to to try and make up the lost time, putting more stress on my body.
“My conditions are triggered by stress, by overworking myself; rest is extremely important for us with chronic illness and disabilities (more so than people think). Our bodies need time to heal and regain strength and energy much more than those that are able-bodied.
“This is so harmful; it puts us in the danger zone of worsening our conditions, triggering flare ups and pushing ourselves past our limits, which in turn means we’ll need to take even more time off. It’s a vicious cycle and these minimum hours that some of us have been set to hit will make some push themselves far past their limits; or put themselves first and affect their payout for the several months it’ll take to lower that baseline.”
Jericho won’t change their streaming schedule, even if that means not hitting the baseline goal of hours. But other streamers don’t have that privilege.
“This new system (whether fading over time or not) is extremely ableist. It doesn’t take us ill and disabled content creators into account, or those who use streaming as a bit extra on the side on top of their other jobs or those that are studying. Once again I feel like the growing content creators are the ones that are going to be affected the most.”
What changes need to be made?
Along with revisions to the new payout system, one of the biggest changes Twitch streamers have been after for some time is an increase in the revenue split.
At present, Twitch takes a 50 per cent cut of any revenue gained through subscriptions or donations. Many streamers feel this is unacceptable.
At the very least, an increase in the proportion earned by streamers would offset any changes in local subscription costs.
A petition was raised on the Twitch UserVoice platform by user SaltyWyvern back in 2020, calling for a change in revenue split from 50 per cent to 70 per cent for streamers, as well as a decrease in the lower payout minimum from $100 to $10-$20.
“I believe these recommendations combined would positively make a huge impact for every streamer and supporter,” says SaltyWyvern on the petition. It currently has over 1,200 votes but no changes have been made.
Otherwise, streamers are now finding alternative payments to diversify their income off Twitch in order to maintain full-time streaming.
“It’s always been good practice to make sure you have multiple revenue streams, but it’s becoming pretty clear that making full-time happen isn’t going to work if I’m only relying on what Twitch are paying me,” says Erinus.
He’s now set up a number of alternative methods for viewers to support his streams, including Patreon and Ko-Fi subscriptions, affiliate links and partnerships with Humble and Epic, and creating a Redbubble store with the intention of selling merch in future.
MouseIsTaken is also encouraging her community not to subscribe through Twitch.
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“I have told my community #nosubtember and instead I am pushing my Ko-Fi as they can support me for less money than a Twitch sub but I will receive more of it,” she says. “With that I’ll be sharing behind the scenes shots of my puppy etc, game reviews, blog posts and more.
“I just don’t think it’s right that Twitch can take half of our earnings from subs but not provide the tools to properly protect us from these hate raids.”
Between ongoing hate raids without a solution and potentially earning less money than before, marginalised streamers are rapidly leaving the platform.