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Jimmy, professionally known and JimmyTiptoe, recently talked with us here at NeoReach all about his journey and experience as a live-streaming gamer.
How It All Started
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Jimmy has always played video games. It started when he was a young kid and continued through his adult life, albeit much more as a secondary concern after family and work. In fact, streaming was not something Jimmy ever thought he would get into. That was until four or five years ago during his day job when he met BooG!e.
A familiar face to iCarly fans, BooG!e and Jimmy worked side by side for months. They talked about video games, and BooG!e told Jimmy that, if he loved playing so much, he should start streaming.
As Jimmy recalls, “I never thought I was that good, but he said I should try it.”
At that time, you could go live straight from your XBOX onto either Twitch or Mixer. So one day, without doing any proper research, he clicked “Go Live” and… “Nothing happens. You go live on an empty website and no one shows up to talk to you.”
Until one person did. A little kid watching who wanted to play, too.
So JimmyTiptoe moved over to Twitch and started researching how to grow his platform. He found Alpha Gaming on YouTube, another gamer who happened to be a Twitch partner. From Alpha Gaming he learned about a key term: discoverability. Platforms like Twitch have very low discoverability for new streamers. You need to already have a large following beforehand. For most people, it’s much easier to grow your brand on another platform like YouTube, TikTok, or Twitter before transferring to Twitch.
Being a father to a young daughter, a husband, and having a full-time job made it difficult for Jimmy to take this route because he didn’t have the time to stream and make unique content on YouTube. In addition, with so many streamers playing the same popular games like Call of Duty, Jimmy would have been at the bottom of the list as a new gamer. This effectively removed Twitch from the prospective starting platforms.
Mixer, on the other hand, provided a few unique advantages.
- It was a smaller platform
- It had hype zones
In a hype zone, big Battle Royale games like Fortnite would feature streamers on a rotation based on which player was closest to winning. This allowed people to be recognized as a player by thousands of people watching. A less saturated platform like this was the best way for JimmyTiptoe to grow.
Jimmy does point out that you are “constantly researching”, from your first days as a streamer and as you continue to grow. Equipment is a big research topic because you always want to look more presentable. Though it’s not necessary to have the shiniest new technology, a good webcam, and a microphone are especially important for gamers.
“If I had a choice between someone with a webcam [or] without a webcam, I’d probably go with the one with the webcam, cause people want to feel that connection.”
This is really where Jimmy says he “hit a wall”. There were so many pieces of tech that could help expand his platform: a webcam, microphone, overlays. But he and his wife were on a budget, and high-quality technology is an investment for anyone. Jimmy configured ways to save money, but his streams still weren’t at the quality he wanted. Then, around June of 2019, his wife gave him a present. “She basically gave me a budget number and then I was able to go out and do a whole bunch of purchases.”
After this, Jimmy started “taking it seriously”, using lights, a mic, a webcam, and overlays. He also began networking on Instagram and other platforms in order to meet other streamers. From there he was able to meet more viewers and grow his platform. After one month his following grew to five times as large as when he started. Networking with other streamers allowed him to become part of a community where he was able to talk about budgeting and streaming with others.
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JimmyTiptoe noticed he still wasn’t growing enough by playing popular games. There was too much saturation. So he started playing other games that weren’t as popular on Mixer. At this point, he garnered a group of regulars who tuned in for his streams. This increased his viewer count, moved him up on the platform, and made him more discoverable to potential new followers.
When Jimmy got bored with a certain game and “plateaued”, as he put it, he moved on to games with more viewer potential until he was able to play stuff like Call of Duty and Apex Legends and continue to grow and be discoverable.
One thing that really helped him build his channel, later on, was “embers”. Embers is a currency that viewers can buy through the Mixer platform and donate to streamers. This allows them to purchase upgrades for their stream and make more unique content, and, in March of 2020, JimmyTiptoe was able to apply for a partnership with Mixer thanks to his platform growth.
Building a Community
You can tell from the moment you talk with Jimmy that he is a kind person. He has a family-first mentality and it translates into the content he produces.
“My community is also my family,” Jimmy says. “I have some followers who have been with me over a year.” He loves spending time with his viewers online, and he appreciates being a source of entertainment for lots of people. His chats are always full of people talking back and forth with him and other viewers.
“I try to keep the community during my streams very open. I like to joke around and I don’t judge because I don’t know what people are going through.” Jimmy says sometimes he can tell when people are going through a rough patch, and he makes a point not to bring overt attention to them in the chat and during his streams. But he also understands that, oftentimes, people just need a sympathetic listener.
“I have a personal Discord and I might reach out to them or DM them and see if there is anything I can do. Sometimes they just need someone to blow off steam to.” For Jimmy, building up his community was not a conscious choice so much as an extension of his normal life. He points out that gaming offline with people also fosters community, as does collaborating with other streamers and welcoming each other’s respective viewers.
Speakeasy – a Personalized Community
On this personal Discord, JimmyTiptoe is able to connect with his audience in ways that general social media platforms do not accommodate. Called the Speakeasy, Jimmy has created channels for everything from sharing stream links to “party chat”.
A trend we are seeing among influencers is to move to more personalizable platforms – such as Discord or Patreon. This allows creators greater control over the content they produce, the conversations they have, and the interactions they foster. There are less regulations or worries about how this will affect their following and any potential sponsorships. Beyond building a brand on social media, creators like JimmyTiptoe are working to build connections.
— JimmyTiptoe (@jimmytiptoe) August 17, 2020
Moving Away from Mixer
Just last month, Mixer was under fire after several unpleasant insights arose on Twitter surrounding streaming partners and their past actions. The gaming community was turbulent and upset. Jimmy himself was disappointed with Mixer’s lack of initiative in failing to take charge of or comment on the situation. Just as he announced he would be severing ties and moving over to Twitch, Mixer announced they were closing down and partnering with Facebook Gaming.
“Mixer didn’t tell partners about the switch,” Jimmy recalls. “It was a big shock to people who loved using the platform and a big slap in the face to all of the issues brought up on Twitter cause it overshadowed them.” The sudden merger confused a lot of people, not least Mixer streaming partners who were now being offered immediate Facebook Gaming partnerships. Becoming a Facebook partner meant access to monetization and ad revenue as well as prioritized promotion over other streamers on the platform.
This all happened at the same time Jimmy started streaming on Twitch, and it wasn’t clear to him which was the better option yet. On one hand, he felt that moving to Twitch meant he would be right back at the beginning: streaming popular games with far fewer viewers. On the other hand, Facebook has had numerous issues regarding privacy in the past, and this new venture provided its own difficulties.
“I’m a very private guy, so trying a new platform like Facebook is concerning.” Jimmy only puts his first name on all streaming content, and his wife and daughter are known simply as Mrs. Tiptoe and Little Tiptoe. Obviously, privacy is an important factor to consider.
A platform like Facebook makes privacy for the viewer really difficult. Unless you create a separate account to watch streams, people are able to see all your personal Facebook info, such as your full name, in the chat. Some people aren’t bothered by this, but many appreciate the anonymity on other streaming platforms. In fact, a lot of Jimmy’s regulars avoided watching his streams because they didn’t want personal information appearing in the chat.
As of right now, Jimmy is continuing his Facebook partnership as a trial. If he moved primarily to Twitch, he knows his viewers would follow. As for Twitch, Jimmy recently became an affiliate and found his experience as a former Mixer partner is a great way to meet other streamers. He’s done some great collabs as well as finding new opportunities and building his network.
And Twitch’s once daunting size has its perks. On Mixer, it was challenging to grow as a streamer if you didn’t play the popular games. Niche games rarely had a sizable view count. On Twitch, however, these smaller games have thousands more viewers and Jimmy is able to play a wider variety.
“I mostly play the FPS, first-person shooter, variety, but every now and then I want to play a different type like the story mode games I grew up on.” Moving to Twitch allowed Jimmy more freedom with his content, and he finds he’s happier because he’s not playing the same game every day.
“A lot of people struggle and will start streaming who have depression, which kind of blew me away at first… You’re coming in and you’re just putting yourself out there. But once I talked to those people, I was kind of like, I have my own problems too, but going out there, putting yourself out there and meeting other people like me who are in similar situations… It’s such a good thing.”
Emerging streamers across platforms have their motives for building community. For those in JimmyTiptoe’s neighborhood, being a creator on Twitch or Facebook Gaming is fundamentally about having fun playing video games and building relationships with other gamers.