For those not in the know, Twitch is a website that hosts video game streamers: people who broadcast a live video feed of their gameplay to viewers around the world. And in the past few years, Twitch has risen to become a real entertainment option for those who love video games and want to watch someone play the titles they love.

BY SHAWN FARNER

Twitch personalities are a lot like YouTube personalities (and some, in fact, pull double-duty on both platforms). They build up followings of devoted fans and earn incomes based on the number of viewers — and in Twitch’s case, paying subscribers — they’re able to draw. Some stream games as a hobby, a way to play a game with a virtual couch full of friends watching. But a select few have been able to turn their streaming efforts into a full-time job.

One of those streamers is Tyler Blevins, best known in the gaming world as “Ninja.”

Ninja reportedly brings in over $500,000 a month thanks to his broadcasts on Twitch, as well as through his YouTube channel and endorsement deals he’s inked. You might have heard about Ninja on the news, or from a friend who watches his streams. He’s becoming increasingly popular among gamers, and though there’s a healthy amount of information about Ninja online, some of the more fun facts about this streaming star are well hidden.

Fortunately for you, we’ve uncovered them.

HE ONCE HELD DOWN A TYPICAL JOB

Most celebrities aren’t born into fame. Instead, they start their lives out as most people do. They go to school, play sports, and work at part-time jobs.

Before he found success as a streamer, Ninja was no different.

He worked at Noodles & Company, a restaurant chain with a focus on noodle dishes and sides. And he did this while also attending college and playing soccer. In Ninja’s mind, keeping everything straight in the other areas of his life would allow him to focus on games later on down the line.

“It was one of those things where if I was doing well in school, putting in the time and effort there, and soccer as well, that I would be rewarded to play as many games as I want,” he told CNBC.

If you’re thinking of following in Ninja’s footsteps, his advice is to keep living your life, too. “All the kids out there, you can’t just drop everything and focus on playing video games for a living.”

HE ONCE APPEARED ON AN EPISODE OF FAMILY FEUD

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is pretty good at video games, but what about game shows? Believe it or not, we actually got an answer to that question back in 2015.

The Blevins family — consisting of Tyler and several of his family members — took part in an episode of Family Feud. They wound up having a very successful run on the show, and over the course of four episodes, racked up a total of $40,000 in winnings.

A “Fast Money” answer by Tyler — “paper,” to the question, “Name something that begins with the letter ‘p’ that you might find in an office” — helped the family win $20,000 of that.

And they managed to secure an invite to the show thanks to Tyler’s creativity. There were no audition events scheduled near the Blevins’ home, so Tyler had the family film a homemade audition tape. The tape captured the attention of the show’s producers, who invited the family to the Family Feud studio for an in-person audition.

HE GOT HIS START IN GAMES AS A PROFESSIONAL HALO PLAYER

Ninja didn’t jump straight into streaming once he decided on video games as a career. In fact, he can credit a fair amount of the fan base he started with as a streamer to the career he had prior: professional Halo player.

Way back in 2009, Ninja started attending Halo events competitively, beginning with a Halo 3 tournament in Orlando, Florida. From there, he picked up Halo: Reach and competed in that title. But it wasn’t until the Halo 4 2012 MGL Fall Championships that Ninja really started to make a name for himself. His team finished the competition taking home the grand prize, and in the final game, Ninja led all players with the highest score.

From there, Ninja went on to continue playing Halo professionally, playing with renowned teams like Renegades and Team Liquid. But eventually his streaming ambitions took center stage, and he left the world of professional gaming to concentrate on growing his Twitch audience full-time.

A FAN ONCE DONATED A TOTAL OF $62,000 TO HIM IN ONE NIGHT

Twitch streamers make their money in a number of different ways. One revenue channel comes courtesy of ads, which run during broadcasts. Streamers get a cut of Twitch’s ad revenue when they become “partnered” with the platform, meaning they’re recognized as featured content providers. These partnered streamers also obtain the ability to have “subscribers” who can pay $5 per month to support the streamer and turn off ads.

But there’s a third option that can be quite lucrative to streamers: donations. Streamers love donations, as they’re paid fully to the streamer without Twitch taking a percentage. Most viewers only donate a few dollars here and there, but some have been known to go overboard. And in one night, one single viewer gifted Ninja with $62,000 in donations, which caused Ninja to — quite understandably — lose his mind during his broadcast. Ninja frequently screams, “That is not possible!” And after several of the donations come in, he has to get up and walk away from his computer for several minutes to collect himself.

It does beg the question, though — who has $62,000 to donate to a Twitch streamer? And why so much?

We’d soon find out.

HIS COMMUNITY LATER GOT SCAMMED BY AC ROYALE’S GOFUNDME

The Twitch fan who donated $62,000 to Ninja used the nickname “AC Royale,” and as it turns out, had a history of making large donations to many of his favorite streamers. Which is why it was heartbreaking when a GoFundMe page popped up online requesting donations for medical bills, stating that AC Royale had been struck in a hit-and-run and needed to have a brain operation.

Ninja’s community answered the call, funneling thousands of dollars to AC Royale for his medical care. But the more the community started to dig into his story, the more fishy it became. Eventually the community presented evidence that the story behind AC Royale’s GoFundMe was untrue, and after initially pulling his Twitter account offline, AC Royale came back to explain himself.

AC Royale stated that he’d once had a great job with a nice income, but he’d lost it, and found himself in dire financial straits. Despite not having an income, though, AC Royale continued to donate to Twitch streamers as a way to “feel good.” He created the GoFundMe because he needed money, but vowed to return all of the donations he’d received through the campaign.

Ninja later wrote a letter to his community to relay the disappointment and hurt he felt over the incident.

HE TEACHES ON A WEBSITE FOR OTHERS WHO WANT TO BECOME STREAMERS

Streaming video games for a living sounds like a dream job to many people, so it’s not surprising that some might be willing to pay for advice on how they can get started. An entire website exists called LVLUP Dojo to serve this exact audience, providing educational material in the form of videos and blog posts about becoming a better live streamer and eSports player.

Ninja happens to be a partner of LVLUP Dojo and teaches a course on Live Streaming. His course hits on some of the basics of getting a steam online, including what to buy and how to set up the software needed to broadcast. It also dives into some of the deeper details, such as why schedules and consistency are important, and how streamers can encourage and maintain growth.

And there’s a more personal perk for those who subscribe to LVLUP Dojo’s monthly or yearly subscriptions, as well: one-on-one brand consultation with Ninja, who at press time, has over 4 million followers on Twitch.

HE ONCE RECEIVED A 48-HOUR TWITCH BAN FOR “DOXXING” A VIEWER

There are a number of rules and regulations streamers have to adhere to when broadcasting on the Twitch platform. One such rule has to do with “doxxing,” which is the act of outing someone’s identity online. According to Twitch, “It is prohibited to share content that may reveal private personal information about individuals, or their private residence, without permission,” and such behavior can result in “an immediate indefinite suspension.”

Ninja came under fire for violating this rule on a stream back in 2016 after receiving a donation containing a racist message, which appeared on his stream. As retribution for the slur contained within the donation, Ninja throughout the night released bits of personal information about the viewer who donated — a clear violation of the Twitch rule mentioned above.

After many Twitch users reported his behavior, Ninja did receive a suspension. However, it was only for a 48-hour span, which led to some speculating that he received a slap on the wrist due to the audience he draws on the platform.

HE EXPERIENCED INSANE TWITCH GROWTH FROM LATE 2017 THROUGH EARLY 2018

Not all that long ago, Ninja’s Twitch streams were pulling in respectable numbers, but they weren’t anywhere near the top of the charts. Back in 2014, for instance, a former moderator of Ninja’s channel claimed that the streamer would garner “about 800 viewers max” per broadcast, and had less than a thousand paying subscribers.

But things change, and the more popular Ninja became, the more people tuned in to watch. And the faster he grew as a result.

Zip ahead to present day and Ninja is now attracting well over 90,000 viewers every time he goes live. And he’s made leaps and bounds in his subscriber count, going from 10,000 in December 2017, to 60,000 in February 2018, to approximately 200,000 in March 2018. The growth is pretty mind boggling on its own, but when you attach a price to each one of those subscribers — $5 a piece before Twitch’s cut — you come to the realization that Ninja is making over $560,000 a month from streaming alone.

When someone achieves an unheard-of amount of success, there are always skeptics ready to take a good, hard look at how it happened. And the story is no different with Ninja, whose monster growth on Twitch over the course of several months has invited plenty of inquisitive eyeballs.

Some Twitch viewers — and even some fellow streamers — believe that Ninja’s meteoric rise on the platform is thanks to what’s called “boosting.” The act of boosting involves the purchase of fake accounts, which are signed up by bots and instructed to follow accounts who pay the right price.

An issue with fake Twitch Prime accounts became apparent when Twitch started giving away free Twitch subscriptions as part of its ties to Amazon. Every Amazon Prime account is also a Twitch Prime account, and those who pay for Amazon’s premium tier get one free subscription to use per month. When Twitch started giving away free Fortnite gear to Twitch Prime members, third-party sellers started selling accounts off to try and capitalize. And buyers of these second-hand accounts not only ended up getting the Fortnite stuff they wanted, but also a free subscription to burn. When you add in the fact that Fortnite is one of the games Ninja plays most often, you can see where folks might make the connection.

Twitch, for what it’s worth, has made it known that it doesn’t believe its accounts have been compromised by bots.

NINJA HAS PLAYED FORTNITE WITH RAPPER DRAKE

 

Ninja is considered a Twitch celebrity in his own right, but Drake? Drake is pretty embedded into the world’s pop culture scene. The Canadian rapper has hosted Saturday Night Live, for crying out loud. So you can imagine that any Twitch streamer who has Drake on as a host is going to get a lot of attention.

Drake joined Ninja for a few rounds of Fortnite in the middle of March 2018, and the duo, as Complex put it, “broke the Internet.” Over 600,000 people tuned in to watch them play together, and at one point, rapper Travis Scott and NFL wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also joined the stream. The result was a melding of three different worlds – gaming, music, and sports — by several professionals who are highly regarded in each of their respective spaces.

Ninja’s viewer count on that day broke a Twitch single-day record that was previously held by Dr. Disrespect, another prominent streamer.

BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU’RE MAKING IN FORTNITE: BATTLE ROYALE

Fortnite: Battle Royale is one of today’s hottest games — play a few rounds, and you’ll see why. Unfortunately, all that popularity comes with a cost. At any given time, there are millions of players battling it out in Fortnite’s free-to-play multiplayer mode, and they’re all out to get you. After all, at the end of a Fortnite match, only one player can be left standing.

There are many new talents coming out of gaming.  Keep an eye out for them!

 

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