Back in 2010 when I started the YouTube channel for In Third Person, Twitch didn’t exist, and the concept of game streaming was still in its infancy. I figured that someday, when I finally got the equipment to do it properly, I would make video game related content for YouTube. Years have passed, the world of streaming is born, and now I have more to think about.
YouTube has streaming capabilities, but it’s not a primary function used by YouTube viewers. At this point, it’s still a platform where pre-produced content excels. For example, vlogs like Trainer Tips, news like Nintendo Prime, or commentary pieces like Jim Sterling work well in this format. They took the time to present their thoughts in a manner that makes it easy to sell in a headline and easy to fulfill in a video thanks to having a thought-out plan and editing to perfection.
Naive as I was, I thought going into this that simply taking my written ideas and producing them as videos would be good enough. In a world where I executed on that vision perfectly, maybe it is. However, it’s a lot harder for me to produce a video than write a post. Words and pictures can be easily to pull together for a post. My most intensive written posts may take two-to-three hours to create. It’s also something I can chip away at on my phone if need be. To make a video come to life, it’s a much lengthier and cumbersome process.
Earlier this year, I took a stab at making a feature from the ground up for YouTube about an under-the-radar NES game I love. The process of scripting, recording my voiceover, recording gameplay, and editing it all together took me 20+ hours for a six-minute video. And the return on that investment? Besides the experience of having made a feature and the satisfaction of having made something I’m proud of, not much. Even by my standards, this video performed horribly. So much so, that I’ve put my plans on making content solely for YouTube on the back-burner.
I try to avoid judging my work based entirely on performance. There are a lot of factors that can dictate the success of any given piece of content, especially for a small site like mine. Some of my best work has probably been seen by less than ten people. On the other hand, an off-handed post about the car I bought was one of my most popular works for years. It had nothing to do with how well I wrote it or for how much my core audience enjoyed it. Instead, it had everything to do with it catching fire on the Google search algorithm.
What I can’t ignore is my time investment. Making a feature on that scale ate up a whole week of my free time. I didn’t write any posts. I didn’t stream. I didn’t even play games outside of Air Fortress for the purpose of gathering b-roll. Assuming I enjoy all forms of content creation equally, is it a better use of 20 hours of my time to make one video that nobody watches, or write 10 posts that people will read or run 10 streams that people will watch?
I know I don’t have to make slick video features like the Air Fortress one. There are other formats out there that take less time to make and have worked for me in the past. Combo videos and fighting game guides consistently perform well. Sometimes I’m in the mood to make those, but not nearly enough to dedicate my channel to it. Reaction videos are popular, but that’s not really the space I want to play in. On top of that, I’m usually at work when the big events happen. I avoid making news-related posts, largely because I’m not all that interested in reporting it. My interest in doing news clips is even lower if you have to add in video production time.
On the other hand, when it comes to time optimization, streaming allows me to tackle multiple objectives at once. If I’m in the mood to play Hollow Knight, I can do that with the stream on so that I can engage with the chat while I play. When the stream is done, I can then upload the full stream to YouTube. That video can also be cut into shorter clips for YouTube. Then cut again into one-minute snippets for Instagram. Then I can use that video footage in my review of Hollow Knight. As far as workflow goes, I can generate a lot of content in a short amount of time.
Streaming also takes advantage of my broadcasting experience. Whether I’m speaking to an empty void, or talking to people in the chat, I think my broadcasting training is put to good use here. I feel comfortable as a host and I think I can connect well with those watching me without having to do a ton of legwork leading up to showtime.
Uploads of streaming content may not have as high of a chance as performing as well as a video feature that was fully thought out, but sometimes those clips perform really well on their own. For instance, the above clip of me discussing the Pocket Rumble tier list was a random moment that happened on stream that is now one of my most popular videos. In another instance, a clip of me getting demolished in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle by a well-known fighting game player continues to generate hits on a daily basis. My oddest success story is a low-quality stream of the niche retro golf game Neo Turf Masters. Having been released that day and with no one covering it, I garnered a lot of views from curious players wanting to learn more about the Switch port.
I am not closing the door on making polished content for YouTube. When I have the right concepts that work best solely for video, along with a production schedule I’m comfortable with, I’ll go for it. For now though, streaming just seems like a better use of my time and effort.