It shouldn’t come as a surprise that well-known streamers can make a lot of money. Many get by just on donations and subscriptions to their Twitch or YouTube channels, but if you’re a big deal, game companies will pay you directly to promote their games. If you’re a really big deal, they’ll pay you a lot.
That was the case with Apex Legends and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who reportedly was paid a cool million dollars to stream Respawn Entertainment’s and Electronic Arts’ battle royale when it was new earlier this month. According to Reuters, another streamer, Shroud, was also paid to promote the game via his stream. “We had streamers from all over Europe, LatAm, North America, Korea, Japan so that we could get our message out there and people would see the game,” said Apex Legends Lead Producer Drew McCoy.
That’s the news portion of this story, so now I’ll get into some editorializing. I’ve already seen a fair number of comments on other sites — and wouldn’t be surprised to see some more here — decrying the practice of paying streamers and YouTubers to promote games. I’m in complete agreement that the financial connection should have been disclosed, so that you knew Ninja was streaming the game because he was paid to do so. Maybe it was; I don’t feel like looking through all his tweets and videos to find out if he did.
The other part that I see people grousing about? That companies just shouldn’t pay these “influencers” or “internet celebrities” or whatever? I can’t agree with that. And if you’re reading this, neither should you.
In the grand scheme of things, Ninja is a nobody. He’s famous, to a degree, but not to a mainstream audience. On that level, he’s not on par with someone like, say, Johnny Depp or Ariana Grande. You probably wouldn’t have a problem with them promoting a product, so why have that same issue with Ninja doing it?
Is it because he’s just some weird-haired kid and not a “traditional” celebrity? It is because he “just plays video games”? If so, you must have similar issues with people who get paid to write about video games. And yet you’re here, reading this.
Ninja got that million dollars because he’s really good at his job, just like Depp or Grande are good at theirs. And make no mistake: what he does is a job. He works every day, for several hours a day, same as someone who works in an office. Just because he gets to do something more “fun” than looking at spreadsheets all day doesn’t invalidate that. It requires a lot of talent and hard work to do what he does. If it didn’t, anyone could do it. Ninja made a million dollars streaming a game because he could. If you could, you would too. I know I would.
You can argue that there are plenty of jackholes out there, “internet celebrities” that are abrasive, obnoxious, or outright toxic. I agree, there are. But the fact that anyone is capable of achieving this level of success with a minimal outlay of funds — OK, you need a decent computer, but beyond that, not much — and no formal background or connections in the entertainment business is incredible. It’s something that wouldn’t have been possible 15 or 20 years ago. It’s the purest form of the American Dream and it should be applauded by everyone.