Friday, April 24, 2020

The Dangers of Attaching Yourself to One Game

As you continue streaming, you may end up discovering one of the most alluring shortcuts on the Twitch platform: by attaching yourself to the right game's community, you can double or triple your growth. It's easy to understand why if you think about it- by making yourself an authority on that one game, sharing stories about it, gossiping about future updates and listening to chatters share their own opinions on the matter, then others who love that game will know that your channel is the place to be. This typically works for games that are big, but not too big- something that isn't in the Top 20 games played on Twitch for example, but still has a large and dedicated community.

With high reward comes incredibly high risks however- if you pigeonhole yourself into the role of playing only that one game, you become more likely to feel trapped by the temporary success you create. The reason for this is simple as well: any fanbase you cultivate by obsessively playing one game won't necessarily be yours at the end of the day- their first loyalty will be to the game. And if you stop playing that game, you lose everything. I've met many people on the Twitch platform who lost their will to stream because of this phenomenon. It's not pleasant. In this entry, I'm going to teach you the dangers of attaching yourself to one game, and give you a few tips to future-proof your channel.


Don't forget to build your own brand when you're
focusing on one game.
It's not a coincidence when you see many of your favorite streamers suddenly switching gears. They play a new game for a few days and notice that massive spike in viewership, then a few days later they announce that they're going to be an 'Elite Dangerous Streamer' or a 'Tarkov Streamer' or an 'Elder Scrolls Online Streamer.' They see the shortcut and they take it. Some of these people will genuinely adore the game they're playing and they'll stick with it through the end of their streaming career. There will be others however, whose Twitch careers come to an early end because of the game. If you focus on one game on your own channel, make sure you're not one of the latter.

It all sounds like an exaggeration, but I've seen it in action. I know several partnered streamers with thousands of followers, who got their check mark specifically because of the one game they focused on, but suffered severe breakdowns when they tried to leave it. Some of these people never came back to Twitch. Others still have the Partner's check mark next to their username, but are now all the way back at the beginning, bringing in viewer numbers equivalent to their first months on the platform. Devoting yourself completely to a single game puts you on an island. You either play that game forever or you pay the price. And that's an experience that you might not be ready for when you sign the deal.


If you've been following The Twitch Playbook for a while, this method of focusing in on one single subject might sound a lot like the strategy I laid out in the entry Hyper-Specialize Your Channel. Like with many aspects of life however, too much of a good thing can cause problems. If you put your channel's entire identity behind a single external brand, you run the risk of pigeonholing yourself. You'll not only create an association in viewers' minds between you and that one thing, but they will have next to no interest in seeing you do anything except that one thing.

Don't let the game seep in so much that
it would damage your channel to leave it.
The key takeaway here is scope. When I've talked about hyper-specializing in the past, I would mention using your thesis as a jumping-off point, but still allowing yourself to branch out. In one entry, I described how I built The Twitch Playbook by branding it exclusively around Twitch, but still offering knowledge that can help YouTubers, Mixer streamers and the like. It starts by being focused on one thing and radiates outwards. In the another entry, Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself on Stream, I talked about finding my own niche of playing story-based games. But despite describing my channel wholly around that concept to this day, I still do loads of other kinds of shows, like daily language learning sessions, live artwork, IRL restaurant streams and more. I brand myself around a hyper-focused concept, but I don't let that trap me inside the bubble of my description. I describe this as 'hyper-focusing while looking outward.'

The alternative, which gets people into trouble, is hyper-focusing while only looking inward. Some streamers get so attached to the amount of viewers they get from living and breathing one game, that they become terrified of deviating even slightly from their formula. They notice that switching games one day or even steering the conversation topic away from their channel's subject for a few minutes will cause the audience numbers to drop, and they misguidedly take this as a cautionary tale: Clearly, in their minds, doing anything that isn't directly related to Tarkov or Overwatch or Final Fantasy XIV is a bad idea. And their personal brand begins dwindling until it's eventually consumed by the brand of the game itself.


In reality, it's not that looking outside your designated niche is bad, but rather that you shouldn't be focusing so much on short-term attention. If you want to do something else, do it. Whatever fans are going to drop off because of it, let them drop off. Like a snake shedding its skin, you have to give your Twitch channel regular chances for its flakiest followers to fall to the wayside. This will condition your community to know that you have other interests, and ultimately make your channel more unique- if all you do is live and breathe Dead By Daylight, you're completely replaceable by any other streamer who does the same. But if you love Dead By Daylight and you also talk knowledgeably about cars, or once in a while you do cooking shows, or even play another game every now and then, your streams become unique. You start creating an actual brand for yourself, instead of simply co-opting the game's brand. And you wean yourself off of the need to chase audience numbers in the process.

If you've already been building your channel laser-focused around a single game, it's not too late to differentiate yourself. But you're going to have to brace for a shift in response from your viewership. Whether this manifests itself as loss in followers, lower view count or angry comments from chatters, you'll have to power through it. If this extra addition to your channel is something you love, it shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks anyway. Don't forget that it isn't the viewers' fault for being upset during this transition time- if this one game was the only thing anyone ever talked about or thought about on your channel, why should they expect anything else from you? So it's on you to take responsibility to make whatever changes you deem necessary, and at the same time not blame the viewers who leave.

There's nothing wrong with playing only one game on stream. But if your channel becomes so obsessed with that game that you start feeling trapped and unable to express your own interests, that's a dangerous place to be. Don't forget to give yourself some room to breathe!

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