Prabhakaran Periyasamy logs in on his system on a daily basis to live stream his gaming commentary and connect with a community of over 122,000 subscribers. The 29-year-old gamer, who started his journey as a video game streamer back in September 2018 -- after originally being addicted to multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game Dota 2, often plays titles such as Call of Duty Mobile, God of War 4, and PUBG Mobile. He at first used to live stream between 10:30am and 1pm and then leave for his regular job as a 3D artist at Amazon India. However, with the swift growth in the video streaming world, Periyasamy left his job through which he was earning around Rs. 45,000 a month and became a full-time streamer.
Periyasamy is one of the emerging live-streamers from India who are leveraging YouTube to grow their presence in nascent space. He spends six to seven hours a day sitting in front of his PC to live stream his commentary and gameplays to the public.
While in just roughly first five months of starting his YouTube channel MidFail-YT, Periyasamy started earning between Rs. 12,000 and Rs. 15,000 a month, he's currently generating over Rs. 32,000 per month through his live streams. Sometimes, the earnings reach even around Rs. 60,000, the streamer tells Gadgets 360 in a telephonic conversation.
"It's like in one month I get more money, while in another month I get less money," states Periyasamy. "It depends on the engagement. So if I'm sick and not doing streaming for one week, I won't earn a single money for that week."
Although Periyasamy originally started streaming mainly on YouTube, he did try to multi-stream some videos on Twitch, which is one of the leading video game streaming platforms in the global markets and is a strong competitor against YouTube. But the Chennai-based streamer didn't find Twitch as a fruitful platform especially for his game stream videos that particularly target Hindi and Tamil viewers.
"If you do a comparison in foreign, Twitch is a more popular platform for live streamers and gamers," he says. "But in India, it's only YouTube as a popular platform for live streamers and gamers."
Just like Periyasamy, Gagandeep Singh, who regularly uploads his game stream videos in Hindi and Hinglish (a mix of Hindi and English) on YouTube channel SikhWarrior that has over 111,000 subscribers, believes that YouTube appears as a better platform for live streamers over Twitch.
"Basically to grow more in our region and our country, YouTube is apter and it's present in almost all the mobile phones in India right now," says Singh while speaking with Gadgets 360 over a phone call. "People can easily go to your channel and watch the content and find the connection because it's in Hindi or English, so it's better than Twitch."
Alongside Amazon-owned Twitch, the western markets have Microsoft's Mixer, which transformed from live streaming service Beam back in May 2017 and added renowned Fortnite streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins earlier this year. Nevertheless, Singh, 24, says that YouTube largely dominates live streaming space in India -- irrespective of the global expansion of Twitch and Mixer.
One of the key reasons behind YouTube's success in India is the existence of a broad local content portfolio. But specifically for gamers, YouTube claims that the country is its third-largest gaming market.
Saloni Pawar, who spends three to five hours daily to stream her game videos on YouTube, points out that the major reason behind the failure of competitors such as Twitch and Mixer is they aren't specifically designed for Indian streamers.
"They are more optimised with stuff like encoders," says, Pawar, 20, who owns YouTube channel Meow16K with over 13,900 subscribers. "India doesn't have strong use for those offerings so far. I think the Internet doesn't allow them to work smoothly here."
Pawar was an active streamer on Twitch for one year -- before moving to YouTube.
Manasvi Dalvi, who streams live game videos through YouTube channel Manasvivi with more than 37,300 subscribers, underlines that unlike YouTube, Twitch also doesn't have its servers in India that affects the live streaming experience for local viewers. Dalvi says that she has a lot of friends who usually stream on Twitch for audiences outside India.
"Even if I have a great Internet [connection]-- I consider a 25Mbps up/ down Internet to be good, but even with that Internet, the user interface [on Twitch] is not that good," the 21-year-old streamer tells Gadgets 360. "I always have some buffering, and I can't watch streams on 1080p even with having good Internet."
YouTube showed its interest in gaming as a category by unveiling its standalone YouTube Gaming app back in August 2015. The app also reached India in April 2016. But in May this year, the video streaming website finally decided to retire the specific app and merge the experience with the standard YouTube platform. It has also built a dedicated gaming section that's available on the YouTube site as well as its mobile apps.
YouTube Head of Creator Ecosystem and Gaming Partnerships Ines Cha in a conversation with Gadgets 360 reveals that the YouTube Gaming app had the highest usage in India, but the team eventually decided to retire the app to remove the cumbersome process for gamers to use a separate app for gamers.
Cha also asserts that it was around March or April last year when YouTube started to see a "huge sort of breakthrough" in gaming content in India that was majorly ignited by a few mobile games.
"We're really doubling down on gaming for India this year and going forward," she tells Gadgets 360. "I just think that [the] India market has a huge potential."
As per the data provided by YouTube, PUBG Mobile videos on the platform are over 15 times more frequently uploaded in India compared to the rest of the world. Sandbox games such as PUBG Mobile, GTA V, and Minecraft are also amongst the most-viewed genres in India alongside battle royale and action-adventure.
Periyasamy says that streaming mobile games over PC games in India helps online streamers gain a massive viewership in a short period. The reason he assumes behind strong interest in mobile games is the huge market for mobile devices in the country.
"For an Indian streamer, if you really wish to play some PC games, you won't get viewers," the streamer tells Gadgets 360. "Viewers basically want to watch live streams for the games that they can play on their mobile."
Having said that, Singh of YouTube channel SikhWarrior who clings to PC games emphasises that while mobile game streaming in India has numbers, there is a potential to grow globally by streaming commentaries around PC games as well.
"There has to be a variety so that people are getting every type of content which is there internationally," he states.
Similar to Singh, Meow16K's Pawar also sees the growth potential in PC games.
"It's currently like all the mobile games are focussed on one particular stream that is PUBG Mobile," she affirms. "They [people who stream mobile games such as PUBG Mobile] don't want to experiment beyond that... It's going to change some time for now -- slowly, steadily."
Toxicity among viewers as a big challenge
While YouTube is apparently ruling the video game streaming space in India, the game streamers aren't have such a great time. They often have to deal with abusive comments and insulting behaviour of viewers on the platform. Toxicity in viewers' behaviour is even a bigger problem for female game streamers.
"Some people have the mentality that these games are only meant for boys and if a girl is playing them, then they think that she just wants to seek the attention in the community," says Pawar, who started streaming back in 2015. "So this set of mentality also exists. These kinds of people come and use foul language."
Dalvi also faces such behaviour regularly. She recounts that once after reading the comments on her channel Manasvivi, her mother even cried.
"If I talk as a girl, I would see there's a lot of toxicity in the audience," the streamer who's also a final-year law student tells Gadgets 360. "There are a lot of juveniles who come to your stream, they often abuse. That's pretty harsh at times."
YouTube does provide the ability to report abusive comments or hide them from the comments section altogether. It also recently rolled out the option to automatically put inappropriate comments on hold for review and even brought policy updates. But nonetheless, the platform still receives a large number of objectionable comments from its viewers globally -- including India.
Female game streamers such as Pawar and Dalvi believe that the intensity of inappropriate comments is quite higher in markets such as India over developed regions as people in developing markets are broadly yet to learn "netiquette" and have the tendency to abuse the opposite gender.
"If you're a YouTuber and you don't know how to handle these people, I think you might end up shutting down your channel," says Pawar.
Demand for Google Pay as a native source for monetisation
To help game streamers generate revenue beyond native ads from their videos, YouTube offers a feature called Super Chat. It allows viewers to pay for a message that will be highlighted during a live chat.
YouTube claims that over 90,000 channels have received Super Chats and some of their streams are earning more than $400 (roughly Rs. 28,700) per minute. The feature is also touted to be the number one revenue stream on YouTube for nearly 20,000 channels -- showing an increase of over 65 percent over last year. Similarly, there are Super Stickers and the option for channels to receive a monthly fee for their subscribers via Channel Memberships.
"Compared to many years ago, we have launched a series of alternative monetisation. They are for us to support creators and let them make money outside advertising," says YouTube's Cha.
Notwithstanding the given monetisation options, game streamers in India mostly provide details of their Google Pay and Paytm accounts in the description of their videos. This is aimed to receive donations directly from viewers -- without letting YouTube cut any commission from the money transferred. This isn't the case with features such as Super Chat and Super Stickers in which the company takes a share of revenue that channels receive from their viewers.
"Google doesn't pay full amount through Super Chat or Memberships," says Periyasamy. "Also, viewers can't directly transfer money to UPI or something. That is why we're providing our Google Pay or Paytm account details in the description."
Singh of SikhWarrior, who earns from Rs. 30,000 to 60,000 a month by hosting around six to seven streams in a week, says the trend of providing account details in the description section of live video streams exists even outside India. The streamer notes that people in the US and global markets provide PayPal information to receive donations from their viewers directly -- alongside using YouTube's in-house Super Chat and other monetisation-focussed features.
"To sustain yourself and doing it full time, you need that extra. Like if somebody donates thousand rupees, 300 rupees are taken by YouTube, which is like a lot if you think about that for a daily basis... But if somebody donates a thousand rupee via Google Pay, you save that 300 rupees," he says.
Cha of YouTube says that the company continues to evolve monetisation on the platform to support creators.
"We will just continue to get more feedback from creators in terms of what kind of products and how to improve more in terms of like more ways to make money and better ways to money," she states.
Esports as the next key point of focus
Video game streaming has already emerged as a career option to earn money and fulfil gaming passion for streamers such as Periyasamy, Singh, and Pawar. But most of them don't want to limit their presence to just their existing systems and adhere to their regular streaming patterns. They want to go beyond streaming their favourite game titles and participate in major esports tournaments.
"A lot of people have actually started looking into how this [esports] segment is different and how it could be a better platform in the next few years," says Pawar, who's associated with an esports organisation called Global eSports.
YouTube as a platform also has esports on its radar and is actively investing in various end-to-end deals, exclusive deals, and working closely with several esports organisations, Cha tells Gadgets 360.
"We will continue to explore opportunities with the esports organisations and publishers as well as some of the top players," she underlines.
Some of the popular international organisations have started considering India for their esports tournaments. In the recent past, we've seen events such as COBX Masters and ESL India Premiership bringing a large number of gamers under one roof. But as highlighted in a report by KPMG, there is a lack of awareness around the larger context and definition of esports.
KPMG found through an in-house survey of 336 fantasy sports users in India that nearly 55 percent of the respondents had an incorrect understanding of esports, associating it exclusively with sports based games. Moreover, as much as 22 percent of respondents were completely unaware of what esports constitutes.
Having said that, the growing interest of online game streamers would help esports emerge as a fresh career option in India.
“Now, it's started. It's the future. Games, esports tournaments, everything has come to India,” Periyasamy states emphatically.