The 19-year-old gamer from Mumbai with over 180,000 YouTube subscribers is known as ‘Alpha Clasher’ in the gaming community.
In the world of live-streamed gaming, there are two sets of participants: On one side are top gamers, who, while playing, interact with each other on a conference call via a gaming community server called Discord.
On the other side are fans, who log into the gamers’ channels to watch the moves live, listen to their commentaries or simply marvel at their techniques. They can also tip money to their favourite gamers via a YouTube feature called Super Chat.gives a fan’s message prominence in a live stream.
At any point in a fourhour live stream, 25,000-30,000 viewers are posting comments at once. A message sent via Super Chat stays on the screen for a while and the gamer has to acknowledge it. It’s a monetisation model that feeds into a fan’s need for recognition.
More importantly, it provides creators with a few thousand loyal followers an opportunity to make money without relying much on ad revenue and brand collaborations.
Jogiya’s first-ever Super Chat came in January last year. It was worth Rs 1,000. The highest amount he has made off Super Chats in a week since then is Rs 45,000.
Twenty-two-year-old Aaditya Sawant still keeps a screenshot of his first ever Super Chat worth Rs 20 from two years ago. A “pro player” with more than a million YouTube subscribers for his gaming channel Dynamo Gaming, Sawant has become a big deal in the circuit.
From October 2017 to February 2018, he made $1,500 in revenue off Super Chats after YouTube took its 30% cut. Now, he makes $1,500 from Super Chats every month. It forms two-thirds of his pay cheque from You-Tube which includes ad revenue.
Tipping an online creator during livestream is not a new phenomenon. Live-streaming video platform called Twitch (now a part of Amazon) has been doing it for years now.
In April 2017, Twitch announced that its users spent over $12 mn on Cheering emojis, its currency to help fans send shout-outs to top creators on the platform.
China, at present, has a $5-billion live-streaming industry, which relies heavily on this tipping model, also called the virtual gifting model.
According to a recent report in The Washington Post, a top live-streaming celebrity in China can earn as much as $100,000 a month from virtual gifting.
In India, the monetisation model for creators has picked up only since 2018. Besides YouTube and Twitch, the content platforms driving growth in virtual gifting are Chinese apps such as TikTok, Bigo Live, Uplive and LiveMe.
These are video-sharing or live-streaming websites that have seen tremendous user growth in the Indian market over the last one year.
For LiveMe, virtual gifting has been the main revenue stream from India, their second-biggest market, since the live-streaming app launched in May 2017.
Singing, dancing and Bollywood content videos get the most number of virtual gifts on a daily basis, says Johnny Wu, regional director-India and Europe at LiveMe, a part of Chinese tech company Cheetah Mobile.
‘The highest revenue we got from virtual gifting in a day in India has been in the range of $50,000 to $100,000. We¡¦ve even localised gifting currency to introduce diyas and Taj Mahal icons,’ says Wu.
India has been transacting in the online economy in some way or the other. But up until now, it wasn’t to directly support creators. With virtual gifting emerging as a trend, that shift is taking place at warp speed.
Chinese short video-sharing platform TikTok runs ads, branded content, and virtual gifting feature for creators in India.
An earlier report from the company claimed its top 10 global users were able to net $46,000 in a fortnight on the back of the gifting model.
Users can do live-chats with their followers and ask them to send coins (a TikTok currency) as a token of appreciation. TikTok, a subsidiary of ByteDance, is now the most downloaded Android app in India.
‘Its success shows Indian creators are ready to take over the web, and that users will familiarise themselves with paying for access soon,’ says Ishtaarth Dalmia, an anthropologist withWebchutney, digital agency. The ripples can already be seen. In November 2018,launched a TikTok clone in Lasso.
Sometime in 2017, Bengaluru-based Keerthivasan Subramanian launched a live-concert site to allow artists from various regions and genres to perform for a mobile audience.
The platform, called Playtoome, has organised 300 concerts, sold over 10,000 tickets, and got 6,000 artistes listed on its platform so far. Why do we care? Because his app has a virtual gifting feature that allows users to interact with performers during the concert. Subramanian makes a little over 8% of his revenue from virtual gifting at present and is positive the figure will go up in the coming year.
Virtual gifting model can be used for self-rewarding too. Someone recently asked Subramanian if she can gift an entire virtual punk rock concert to her boyfriend to propose.
Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita are looking to emulate this aspect of the model for their gaming app Loco. ‘We’ve built an in-game coin system that helps bridge various game and content formats. So you could be a good video game player and pick up coins for that skill, then use that to play a quiz gameshow or watch some premium content,’ cofounders of parent company Pocket Aces.
‘Virtual gifting has huge potential. We have only touched the surface,’ says Subramanian.
Underneath the surface though, there are several issues. Many fans who tip resident gamers Sawant and Jogiya, aka Dynamo and Alpha, are minors.
Sawant once received Rs 53,000 in a week from a 17-year-old. ‘I had to separately reach out to him to make sure his family knew he was spending that kind of money online,’ he says. He often sees other fans getting jealous of those who frequently send Super Chats and win regular acknowledgement from top gamers.
Platforms like TikTok and Bigo Live have consistently been in the spotlight for showcasing objectionable adult content from some creators whom users indulge in and donate generously to.
Chennai-based Bigo Live broadcaster Dimple D¡¦Souza has candidly spoken about the kind of inappropriate requests that come her way from followers who send her diamonds (a gifting currency) on the platform. In the recent past, Bigo Live has been likened to a dance bar, with a Vice article alleging the platform is ‘fuelling Southeast Asia’s digital sugar daddy boom.’ A lot of these platforms have since strengthened their content monitoring capabilities. Not all monitoring efforts are appreciated by the creators whose income takes a direct hit. In October 2018, YouTube rolled out a policy about sending money collected from abusive Super Chats to a charity as opposed to splitting it between the platform and the creator — a move that received major backlash from many creators.
Both Sawant and Jogiya have been at the receiving end of spam via Super Chat. ‘A lot of fans are stuck on just one question: Bhai teri girlfriend hai kya? (Brother, do you have a girlfriend?)’ Once Sawant got several Super Chats in a row with just one message: ‘Girlfriend’ Jogiya has been called names like motu (plump) via Super Chat.
‘Some users might indulge in bullying. But most of them are there to appreciate your gaming skil
ls,’ clarifies Anirudh Nagpal, co-founder of Ebullient Gaming India, who manages both these gamers.
Sawant, in fact, has a different issue with Super Chat. ‘Our fans from Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh use VPN (virtual private network) settings to participate in live-streaming and often share their disappointment at not being able to appreciate us by sending donations because Super Chat is banned for them,’ he says. He often has to calm them down and ask them to just enjoy watching the game.
At a time when making money off views and advertising has become increasingly difficult courtesy ad blocks and You-Tube’s ever-changing monetisation policies, virtual gifting comes as a great opportunity for celebs of a niche community to earn through their skills.
Virtual gifting transactions might be a single digit percentage of overall online microtransactions at payment gateway Instamojo.
‘But the volume of these transactions may be in crores for all you know,’ says Sampad Swain, the company’s co-founder.
Can the virtual gifting model, then, be an alternative to the advertising model online? Perhaps not entirely. As the Pocket Aces founders note: Gifting may work well in certain niches like gaming and live-streaming platforms. However, the volume of donations/tips will have to scale significantly.
Advertising still provides a scalable business model for platforms, so that will continue, they say. But a mix of revenue sources will certainly help everyone involved.
What this model is inadvertently facilitating is the interaction of like-minded people within a certain community. Only the quality of those interactions will have to rise above lewd messages and name-calling to more constructive remarks.
Board Games, Poker Sets: The Diwali Gifting Guide That Has Something For Everyone
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Spread The Joy
As the festival of light approaches, laughter, moments spent with loved one, food and gifts become a part of the daily routine.
One of the biggest days in the Hindu calendar, Diwali is marked by a week of celebration together with friends and family.
While receiving presents is pure joy, picking the ideal gift for someone else can at
times be cause of anxiety. More so now, since cliched sweets, chocolates, and wines are no longer look cool, and rather seem like mere last-minute fixes.
To help put your mind at ease, here’s a list of fun, innovative presents that are sure to be a hit with your friends and family.