By Zane Bhansali
Two of gaming’s most storied names have launched a new community geared toward helping professional streamers. Former League of Legends pro Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis and YouTuber and streamer David “StoneMountain64” Steinberg have announced the closed beta launch of “Pipeline,” a members-only community for those looking to make streaming their career.
The remarkable growth of streaming over the last year, exemplified by the cascade of record-breaking viewership numbers and events like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ New Year’s Eve stream, has guaranteed its household status. But even as streaming has been thrown into the public eye, info on how one should go about turning it into a viable career remains sparse.
“Our hope is that Pipeline becomes a sort of central hub of knowledge within streaming and that we create a lot of transparency,” Ellis said in an interview with Cheddar Esports. “Right now you need to spend a lot of time in the space to try and figure it out. We just want to level the playing field and help get that information to people that’s quality.”
That information ranges from the simply technical to the nuanced art of building a brand for today’s social-media based consumer. Pipeline will provide guidance with audiences ranging from the streamer who’s just begun her or his journey - what OBS settings should I really be using? - to the one who’s considering starting - what’s OBS again?
“It will honestly help you no matter where you are in the journey, but especially in those early phases,” said Ellis, who's the CEO of Pipeline. However, he’s also adamant that Pipeline will be an important resource to help streamers with established fanbases achieve the professionalism still nascent in the industry. “Even if you’re at like a million views, we’re covering things like how do you get a team in place to make sure you’ve got editors, taxes, lawyers, and like how to find out where to go and get those,” Ellis said.
Ellis is most well-known as a League of Legends pro who competed at the highest level - he placed third with his team, Evil Geniuses, at the 2012 World Championships. While playing as a pro, Ellis developed a significant stream following, in part due to his engagement with viewers through gambits like “Get Fit With Snoopeh,” an admittedly jokey exercise regimen in which he’d do pushups on stream every time he died in-game.
But it's Ellis’ stumbling first streaming experiences, with only limited resources to guide him, that serve as the inspiration for Pipeline. “I grew up in a small town in Scotland, and the information out there when you were first getting started streaming was extremely cumbersome,” he said. “Honestly, since I first started back in 2010, it’s not changed that much. The barrier to entry in streaming is still really substantial. And while there is a lot of awesome resources out there, it can be hard to determine what’s quality and what isn’t quality.”
After retiring as a pro, Ellis spent time attempting to develop resources for professional gamers. In 2016, he launched the Player Resource Center with attorney and founder of IME Law Bryce Blum in an effort to provide free professional services for the young players of esports. Since then, Ellis spent two and a half years at Facebook helping develop its streaming platform from the ground up.
Steinberg, who will serve as Chief Content Officer, is a successful YouTuber and streamer with more than 1.9 million subscribers, who notably streams on Facebook as opposed to the more popular Twitch (Pipeline emphasizes that it will provide advice for streamers on all platforms, including YouTube and Microsoft’s Mixer).
“He’s been in the content space for over seven years, and he’s sort of been through the ropes,” Ellis said of Steinberg. “Both he and myself have learned a lot about what it takes to make it as a streamer. And what we’ve done is come up with a playbook to distill all that we learned down into a playbook that you could follow.”
In addition to direct guidance in growing and maintaining a stream, Pipeline also hopes to provide other benefits to members that ameliorate the costs of being a streamer. “Even if you’re a couple of years in, it’s really expensive,” Ellis said. “You can spend thousands of dollars just getting your rig together, and when this isn’t your job, it’s your part-time, doing this on the side, it can be really hard to justify all of those costs.” As such, Pipeline is partnering with brands including Corsair, El Gato, and NZXT to provide discounts to members and circumvent the hefty price tag that may come with starting a streaming career.
For streamers just starting out, finding your tribe can be a daunting task. Twitch hosts the streamer-focused TwitchCon in California every year, and this year also saw the inauguration of TwitchCon Europe in Berlin. But for streamers, the price of attending an in-person event can be prohibitive, especially with travel factored in.
As such, Ellis and Steinberg also see Pipeline serve as a social network for streamers – a specialized streaming LinkedIn, where streamers can connect, grow, and learn from each other.
That Pipeline is set to be a community for streamers raises a strange irony – after all, part of a streamer’s job is to create and lead their own community. The custom emotes, subgoals, and donation messages that litter today’s streams all serve a common goal: building a semblance of a personal connection with viewers so they’re motivated to stick around. But in interviewing nearly 400 streamers, Ellis and Steinberg found that despite their constant communication with viewers, many streamers lacked a sense of community in their own lives.
“One of the recurring things that kept coming up was how lonely it can be streaming,” Ellis said. “Typically, you know, you’re in your town or whatever, and your friends and your family don’t necessarily get what you’re doing. And they might be supportive, they might not be. You have your viewers tuning in all the time, they’re watching, and it’s great to have that interaction with your viewers, but they don’t necessarily get the journey that you’re going on.”
Of course, for all its talk of saving streamers costs, Pipeline comes with its own price tag - $29 a month or $295 a year for “founders,” the set of members who enroll in the two-week closed beta period starting today. That's still a hefty price tag - whether streamers, especially those starting out, will find it amenable is yet to be seen. For Ellis, it’s a part of validating streaming even further. “Honestly my hope is that we help more people turn this into a viable career path. Right now, you know, far less than one percent actually can turn this into a full-time job,” he said. “We think we can move the needle on that number with the approach that we’re taking.”