Nepal's burgeoning community of livestream gamersHow regular live streaming on platforms like Facebook is helping online gamers sustain their small community.
GC is one of the many Nepalis who have been live streaming gaming videos on Facebook, a preferred and popular platform for gamers. They are part of a burgeoning community of more than 200 gamers who play games online partly out of their passion for online gaming, and partly to monetise their streams, through donations, Facebook stars or various sponsorship deals.
Since he started in late 2018, GC has amassed over 80,000 followers who have been supporting him with small donations and positive feedback.
“It wasn’t great in the beginning. I used to stream to less than 10 people. Sometimes it would be just one,” said GC, who recently completed his Bachelor’s degree. “But gradually, with consistency, I started to gain followers and have been doing well. But I still feel there is a long way to go.”
Globally, the streaming industry does pretty big business. Its valuation as of 2018 was around $40 billion which is expected to rise to over $100 billion by 2026. The streaming platforms are so competitive they even buy popular players and give them multi-million-dollar contracts to come play for them.
According to SuperData Research, a company that provides market intelligence on all digital games and interactive media, Twitch, a popular streaming platform, had more traffic than Netflix and HBO’s online service in 2017.
In Nepal, the video game live streaming is nowhere close to where it stands globally, but gamers are optimistic. “If you work hard and stay consistent, who knows what the future holds,” says GC whose videos on a regular basis have over 10,000 views. He says in a good month, he can earn up to $500.
And not all streamers are in it for the money. For some, gaming is pure passion. Like Vidit Singh, 23, who goes by the gaming name GaDaFi, streaming is more than making a few bucks. He, like GC, started streaming last year. Even though Singh doesn’t get as many viewers as GC, it hasn’t stopped him from streaming almost every day. Even though he says he does get discouraged when not many watch his streams, he says he reminds himself why he started in the first place.
“For me, this is all about introducing eSports to a new audience. I want to inspire a new generation of gamers who can represent Nepal in the eSports tournaments in the future,” said Singh, who is currently studying BBA in Kathmandu. Most recently, Singh has started to stream a new eSport title called Valorant, which has become popular among young Nepalis.
Aryan Pandey, 16, says he loves watching these streams. For him, it provides the same entertainment value as it does for his mother who watches daily soaps on Indian TV channels. Pandey, after watching Singh’s streams, downloaded streams and has started to play Valorant.
“It's exciting. Sure not all Nepali streamers interact in the chat as often, but it's still quite fun,” says Pandey. “It's getting better. I’ve learnt a lot about how to play games watching Karma Live and Gadafi’s streams.”
Singh believes that at the end of the day what he does is for content. “I play aggressively because I know if I don’t, people will not watch me play. If I keep on dying, no one will want to watch that.”
Sapna Bista, 23, is the only girl in the Nepali streaming community. She started gaming a year ago on a different streaming platform called YouNow in 2017. But after finding out that streaming on Facebook would get her more viewers, she jumped ship and started streaming on Facebook just before lockdown.
“I really like gaming. I’ve done so since I was a small kid. I wanted to stream when I was in Nepal, but due to the slow internet, I could never do it,” says Bista. Which is why after moving to Minnesota to pursue her Master's degree, she started to stream whenever she got the chance. But because she’s a girl, she says, people make sexist remarks and even ridicule her.
“While there are people who are supportive, there are always trolls who try to discourage me with their shrewd comments,” says Bista. “Sometimes it does get very toxic which is why I don’t do it as much as I would like to.” But despite all the negativity, she still enjoys streaming.
“This is a hobby. I like games, and right now I’m not thinking about earning anything out of this. This gives me a chance to meet new people and be a part of a larger community,” says Bista.
A majority of Nepalis stream on Facebook because of its reach: even if you post the stream link on a group, it gets at least 40 to 50 views, they say. “Facebook is a good platform because everyone uses it. You post your stream on a random group, you might get a 100 viewers watching you at the same time,” says Suresh Thapa who streams with the name Ghostktm.
But making money from streaming isn’t easy. Even though there are some streamers who earn a lot, for many it’s a grind. The only way to earn money is via donations which can be made via PayPal or through Facebook’s star system. One star equals one cent, and Facebook only pays one once a person reaches 10,000 stars which equals to $100.
Another way to earn some money is the supporter button which gives the audience the chance to subscribe to their favourite streamers content for a small fee of around $2 a month. But out of so many streamers in Nepal, only a handful have paid subscribers.
“It's not easy to make a living from this because policies here don't support us,” says GC, who has a supporter button. “It was not easy to get the supporter button. I streamed five hours every day for more than a year to get that button. Even though Nepal isn't eligible to get a supporter button, but upon request, the guys at Facebook gave me one, for which I am grateful.”
Despite all the issues, this number of gamers continues to grow every day—giving rise to this new gaming culture in Nepal. When asked what advice he would give new streamers, GC says one can’t start playing thinking of making tons of money. “Take it as a hobby. Or a part-time job. Then slowly upgrade your stream and interact with the chat. That will help you out a lot. Always remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you want to become a successful streamer, you will have to work hard and grind it out,” says GC.