Destiny’s Mtashed On The Ups And Downs Of Being A Video Game Content Creator – Forbes
When I was growing up, all my friends thought making video games would be just about the coolest thing you could do as a career. It would be a way to stay connected to the industry into adulthood, as surely, there was no other way to do so, right?
Not anymore. Between YouTube and Twitch, actually playing video games for a living can be a solid source of income, a full-time job, or even a winning lottery ticket. YouTubers and Twitch streamers are now some of the biggest, most well-known icons in the video game industry, and many aspire to be just like them.
I wanted to talk to someone in the community that wasn’t making PewDiePie mountains of cash, but is still well-known and considering doing this full time. That someone is Michael “Mtashed” Tash, a high-profile Destiny YouTuber and streamer from Edmonton, Alberta. With 150K subscribers on YouTube and 57K on Twitch, he has a sizable following and is instantly recognizable in the Destiny community, but recently, as he’s about to secure a business degree at 24, and he’s having to consider hard choices about following the content creation dream, or seeking a more traditional job to help support his son and girlfriend.
I spoke with Mtashed about how he got his start, the choices he’s faced with, and what he thinks of YouTube, Twitch, Destiny and the entire concept of making a living like this. Read on for the full interview:
FORBES: How long have you been streaming/making YouTube videos? How did you first start out, and then grow after that?
Mtashed: I started making videos 4 years ago. I started out trying to make comedy skits, and planned on doing so forever. After realizing the immense work and costs associated with high quality skits, I took almost a year-long break before transitioning to gaming content. I was pretty lazy for a long time, and it wasn’t until after Destiny‘s House of Wolves expansion in May 2015 that I took things seriously. I started to post almost daily in hopes of being discovered, and it worked. I started making PvP guides which caused Planet Destiny to notice me. Working with them boosted my channel from 2,000 subscribers to over 10,000 in a week! From there I collaborated with some other big names like Triplewreck and Mr.Fruit, which once again caused exponential growth.
What’s your percent income split between YouTube/Twitch? How secure is your income from content creation?
Currently YouTube is around 60-70% of my income, with Twitch being the secondary source. Answering that question is tough because of the massive changes in income from month to month. If you look at my past few months, most would argue that I have a pretty secure income. But when you look at this month, and the typical trends in January/February ad revenue, I am definitely worried about doing this full time.
What appeals to you about Destiny that you’ve made it the primary focus of your content?
Destiny has something for everyone. There are hard core PvE raiders who come back week after week to get loot for their characters, there are casual guys who play a bit of everything, and there are hard core PvP players who live to kill in the Crucible. I personally enjoy all content Destiny has to offer, making it easier to play the game long term, but also believe it has the staying potential many games don’t. It felt like something I could settle into for a long period of time knowing people would be watching for more than a few months.
In a recent video you mentioned declines forcing you to consider getting a more traditional job once you get your degree. How do you weigh your options between career paths going forward?
In April/May I graduate with my Bachelor of Commerce Degree (major in marketing). From my past work experience, new degree, and in my mom’s opinion, a great personality, I feel I could find a secure career to provide for my family. With the current trends of my channel, and with how volatile YouTube/Twitch can be, I’d be lying if I said I felt overly secure doing this full time. During school this has been the best “part time” job anyone could have, but after graduating I want to make sure I am able to provide for my family. I have a 6 year-old son Benjamin, and a girlfriend of three years named Cathleen. We live in a cozy little apartment and can handle our payments, but I refuse to just “survive” long term. I have to do what is right for my family, even if it means putting my online dream on the back burner.
What do you attribute the recent declines to? Destiny, YouTube, anything else?
Unfortunately, Destiny is on a bit of a decline. They have brought in some new updates such as The Dawning recently which will bring some people back to the game. However, I believe people are burnt out on the game. The average person I know has over 1,000 hours played, with some over 3,000. People loved Destiny to death almost, and now they are starting to move away from it. Less players = less people who want to watch YouTube videos or Twitch streams regardless of the type of content being created.
YouTube is acting up. They must have changed some algorithms somewhere down the line, because many of my viewers say my videos are never recommended to them anymore. Normally 55%+ of my views come from recommendations and non-subscribers. Now only 25% is coming from these sources. On top of that, faithful subscribers are being automatically unsubscribed from me. I don’t know what is going on, but there are many people complaining that YouTube is messing up currently.
Do you think it’s risky for content creators like yourself to focus mainly on one game, or is it better to specialize like that to build an audience?
I think making quality content on one popular game can be one of the fastest ways to grow online. Some YouTubers like Datto have gained over 600,000 subscribers off of primarily one game. However, most YouTubers recognize this comes with some very obvious risks. If the game dies and people lose interest, your subscriber count means next to nothing. I think it’s smart to build an audience in one game, then slowly branch out to others. That’s currently my game plan. I want to expand into multiple other games with my comedy videos while Destiny is slow, then dive right back into it with each new expansion or new game. I’m hoping Destiny 2, if there is one, is closer than we think.
What do you make of recent changes to YouTube’s algorithms? How do you view YouTube and Twitch, and which do you prefer based on revenue, features, etc?
I feel like the changes have drastically hurt my channel. I recognize Destiny may be slow, but I received nearly 1/3 the views this month than last. There have also been major changes in my analytics to suggest people simply aren’t being recommended my content anymore. It seems like every update YouTube makes, the site is worse off and less supportive of the content creators.
Twitch on the other hand, is absolutely wicked. They continually pump out quality of life changes to support the community, and come out with features that show they understand how to improve their service for EVERYONE. Viewers and broadcasters have repeatedly been given improved features over the past year. I enjoy the community dynamic of Twitch, and feel pretty secure about how revenue is earned there as opposed to YouTube. Personally, I wish I could quickly make the swap from “YouTuber” to “Streamer”, but it will take some time for me to build a strong audience on Twitch.
I saw you recently opened a Patreon and hit some of your goals immediately. What does that mean for your future? What do you think that says about your reach and your fans?
I laid down the truth with my audience a few days ago: I am extremely scared to try and do YouTube/Twitch full time after I graduate. While I believe I have a great following and have a better shot at “making it” than many, the risk involved terrifies me. I want to provide for my family, and the volatility of online success can sometimes be deterring.
However, currently these worries have been shattered. My audience was extremely receptive to me starting a Patreon, pledging over $2,000 a month currently to help me continue making content. At this rate, I am 100% committed to going full time after graduating. The support from my audience allows me to stop worrying so much about how many views I am getting, so I can focus on making content that will help me to grow. I don’t expect the Patreon stays this high for long, however, at even half the amount, I feel much more secure and ready to pursue the dream. How could I fail with this many people believing in me?
What would you say to other players who want to become a content creator like yourself? What are the risks and challenges you’ve faced doing this?
Be ready to grind. Making it online is similar to becoming a movie star, a professional athlete, or a successful comedian. You will need to grind for hundreds of hours for even slice of success, and even then it isn’t guaranteed. I know some awesome people that stream every single day and haven’t “made it.” I know people with 500 videos and 300 YouTube subscribers. Being dedicated and making quality content is the biggest key, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think there was a bit of luck and exposure required to succeed. I hate to sound so negative, but I think I wouldn’t be responsible to tell everyone they will make it if they try hard. Some people just won’t, and it sucks.
That being said: The friends I have made along the way, the fun I have had, and the memories I have made are completely worth it. I really feel blessed to have the opportunity I have, and wish I had a clear cut answer on how others could do it as well.
Is this scene sustainable? Do you think Twitch/YouTubing will remain a viable potential career path, or is the market becoming over-saturated?
I think there is still a lot of potential to make Twitch/Youtube a career. More people are watching video games than they are watching sports in recent years. Trends like that can’t be ignored. However I think being a “famous” content creator and making a living out of it is extremely rare. It also isn’t guaranteed to work for many. If someone has passion, quality content, and knows how to market themselves, I believe they can create a sustainable business online. However, getting to the point of supporting yourself financially online is one of the most difficult things in the world.