According to leaked data obtained in the Twitch hack, the top earner on Twitch game-streaming platform made $9.6 million from August 2019 to October 2021.
The top five earners made about $US35 million between them, according to the data.
Twitch is a live streaming platform that’s particularly popular with gamers and game enthusiasts; at its most basic level, individuals pay to see other people play video games. It has millions of people watching millions of streamers at any moment, and it attracts hundreds of thousands of new users every day.
But how much top streamers earn has been a closely guarded secret up until now.
On Wednesday night, the website leaked more than 100GB of compressed text files, revealing the salaries of hundreds of streamers as well as the source code and technical information for yet-to-be-released goods.
Twitch hack: 125 GB of data including payments to streamers since 2019
An unknown user has posted a link to a 125GB torrent file on 4Chan, which he claims contains “the entirety of Twitch.” This file supposedly includes the following information, all of which we read verbatim:
“The entirety of twitch.tv, with the commit history dating back to its inception.
Twitch Clients for Mobile, Desktops and Game Consoles
Various proprietary SDKs and internal AWS services used by Twitch
All other Twitch properties, including IGDB and CurseForge
A Steam competitor not yet released by Amazon Game Studios called Steam.
Twitch SOC’s internal network teaming tools. “
Hours after the information was made public, Twitch has confirmed through its official Twitter profile that the breach has taken place and that they are working on fixing it.
We can confirm a breach has taken place. Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this. We will update the community as soon as additional information is available. Thank you for bearing with us.
— Twitch (@Twitch) October 6, 2021
Payments to streamers since 2019, according to leak
We verified that this torrent file exists and that it contains 125 GB of data, although we were unable to verify its authenticity from Xataka.
The first folder, “Twitch Payouts,” is eye-catching, and it apparently contains payments made by Twitch to streamers from 2019 to the current day, as well as taxes.
From left to right, the table displays the ID of each streamer, advertising income generated by subscribers, bits generated by advertisers, and Prime subscriptions sold. It’s also reported that the passwords have been exposed, but they appear to be encrypted.
UPDATE: another anon re-ran the math, something was fuckey about that first one.
This seems slightly more realistic. pic.twitter.com/kNV1wVEMxF
— Sinoc (@Sinoc229) October 6, 2021
On the other hand, the leak includes “Steam”, the code name of a supposed Steam-like client that Amazon Games Studios would be working on. This apparently integrates Twitch features and includes Unity code for a game called Vaperworld. There are also certain graphic assets.
According to the user, this is the first part of the leak and includes “the source code of almost 6,000 internal Git repositories”.
Several streamers have publicly confirmed their own leaked earnings
CrispyTV, a streamer from Melbourne who goes by the name Williams, told the ABC that his earnings figure revealed in the data breach is “very close.”
“I’m lower than what that number says — it’s not pinpoint, but it’s close,”
According to Canadian streamer “tehMorag,” the leaked data included the precise amounts for his income, down to the cent.
“People are going to be harassed for this info as it now fully confirms what some sites have been trying to figure out through bots scanning channels.”
Here is the full list of top earners:
Here's a more comprehensive list of leaked Twitch payouts (I will keep updating this thread as more things come out). pic.twitter.com/15JItvp6l4
— KnowSomething (@KnowS0mething) October 6, 2021
How to make millions from playing video games?
Subscriptions are a common method for streamers to make money on Twitch.
Subscribers to a channel may enjoy unique chat rooms, emoticons, and merchandise discounts as rewards.
Tips are another source of income. Viewers purchase Twitch’s in-game currency, “bits,” which they then give to their favorite broadcasters.
A single-bit fee is $US1.40, and the streamer receives roughly 70% of each bit utilized in their chat (that is, they get $US0.01 for every bit).
A portion of ad income made from a Twitch streamer’s page goes to the top streamers, who are known as Twitch Partners.
Other than that, there’s also a chance they may be offered endorsement contracts and brand sponsorships; these amounts would not have been revealed in the Twitch hack, thus the top earners could be earning considerably more than what is represented in the leaked data.
The most-streamed games on Twitch include Fortnite, Call of Duty, and NBA 2K21.
Every day, Mr. Williams (also known as CrispyTV) broadcasts himself playing FIFA 22.
With 350-400 subscribers, he’s made about $US30,000 over the past year.
“Most of the revenue for streamers such as myself comes through people subscribing… It works a bit like Netflix. They get the content they want, and if they don’t they unsubscribe.”
Why do people enjoy watching others play video games?
For three main reasons:
- Improve their own performance in the video game they’re watching someone else play.
Twitch’s top earner, Critical Role, does not entail a video game; instead, it is made up of several voice actors who play the tabletop role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons.” It’s more like a soap opera than anything else, with a cast of characters and sweeping storylines.
The highest individual earner on Twitch is Canadian Félix Lengyel, who has the username “xQcOW”.
He has a viewer number of more than 60,000 and streams a variety of games including chess for an average of 9 hours each day.
He pocketed $US8.4 million over the past year, according to the leaked data.
“It wouldn’t surprise me someone is earning nine million bucks… “They may say, ‘Why would I work 9-5 a day to go and spend my money on someone that earns a million bucks?”
Mr. Williams says he understands “there are people out there who are upset” having learned how much their favorite streamers earn.
Mr. Hellyer was concerned about a backlash from viewers.
He claimed that he had wanted to inform his subscribers about his income, but a contract with Twitch has prevented him from doing so.
Twitch is fiercely protective of operational information, such as how much money its streamers are paid; YouTube Gaming competitors are paying large salaries to lure video gaming talent.
In 2019, Microsoft gave Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most popular streamer on Twitch, up to $US30 million to exclusively stream on their Mixer platform.
The leaked papers are labeled “part one,” suggesting that there may be more forthcoming information.
“I really hope that no major personal info, including full names, emails, address, phone number, banking info, gets out in the rumoured next part of the leak,”
I have a Twitch account. Have I been hacked?
Troy Hunt, a security researcher who has investigated the breach, said he’d been hearing unsubstantiated rumors of another trove of stolen data that may include email addresses.
“Whoever broke into Twitch has dumped all this data [in the first trove], but might be sitting on many millions of customer details, looking to monetize that,”
There’s also a chance that hackers have gotten their hands on password data, so Twitch users should change their passwords immediately, just in case.
“It’s a pretty damning leak… For a platform to have all its source code exposed is very significant. We’ve seen breaches like this with with Dropbox and LinkedIn and all sorts of critical infrastructure. In many ways it’s business as usual.””
It’s uncertain who perpetrated the attack, or why.
On the chat board 4chan, an anonymous poster called the Twitch community “a disgusting toxic cesspool” and claimed that the leak was being posted “to foster more disruption and competition in video streaming.”
Twitch and hate raids
In recent months, a surge of trolling, known as “hate raids,” has been directed at Twitch streamers from under-represented or marginalized groups.
Creators boycotted Twitch for a day in September to express their dissatisfaction at the platform’s lack of action on racist raids.