The rise of game shows on livestreaming platforms has been one of the space’s most interesting trends. For many of the world’s top streamers, a game show is their flagship content: Austin Show’s Name Your Price was one of the bright spots of G4’s revival, many of One True King’s (OTK) game shows garner tens of thousands of viewers, and Ludwig Ahgren filled up thousands of seats at the YouTube Theater for Mogul Money Live. Even smaller streamers have extended their reach by organizing this type of content.
Though it’s been years since they’ve gained popularity, the enthusiasm for streamer game shows isn’t waning — more and more streamers want to be the next Bob Barker or Alex Trebek. But, it’s far more complex and challenging to put on a game show than on the surface. Inven Global spoke with several of the figures involved in this trend — discussing the challenges of organizing a game show, and the future of the content-type.
Not all banter and prize money
Like a lot of forms of content creation — a game show can look pretty easy. With a few stream overlays, some guests, and a simple concept, anyone can improv their way into a successful show. Right? Of course, it’s more complicated than that. There are several obstacles that exist in putting together a successful show — both logistical and performative.
Game shows are an excellent way to grow as a streamer. It’s a perfect opportunity to bring many streamers together — creating a higher-profile stream that can boost the host’s stream, as well as afford tons of networking opportunities. Yet, this only happens through working with a group notorious for being forgetful.
When speaking with SynAck (one of the original organizers of OTK’s game shows), he spoke of the preparation his team takes in organizing shows. “It is definitely a challenge getting streamers to come to events, especially towards the beginning of OTK where no one really knew what we were doing,” SynAck stated. “One thing that people don't know is if one of our shows starts at 2pm, the team is ready at 10am — we're there for a long time leading up to it. Imagine Snuffy is on a show, and she wants to stream before the show. We want to be there for her to say, ‘Hey, I'm about to start my stream, is there anything I need to do to get ready for the show before I go live?’ And so we'll go ahead and help them prepare before they go live. We always try to have a producer on the show and whatever group DM is going on with the show’s host and the other creators — we can prep everyone ahead of time and send appropriate reminders that the show is happening.”
It makes sense why they start so early — almost two-dozen staff working on different aspects of the show. SynAck explained that streamers double-book — a common problem for shows including nine people at a time. It’s not surprising that a slew of extra logistical issues can occur with shows that are that complex.
That’s not to mention the slew of technical problems that could occur, especially with remote shows. When speaking with Jakub “Atroooix” Szmyt — a broadcaster that has worked on several of the worlds’ biggest gaming live streams, as well as collaborated with streamers such as Austin Show and Tyler “Trainwreck” Niknam — he spoke of the technical challenges of hosting larger-scale game shows.
“Imagine one of their cameras just breaks,” Atroooix explained. “And let's say you're not prepared to change the graphics on the go — you're screwed. So you have to prepare a lot. And it being a remote broadcast, anything can happen. A feed disconnecting, a screen going black, or something just not connecting over the internet — there are so many bad things that can happen. Audio issues as well — there are so many people talking, and with it being an event with content creators in nature, sometimes they don't really follow the rules of the show. So overcoming those kinds of challenges — there's a lot of work behind the scenes.”
Atroooix explained quite a few more scenarios possible when hosting a remote show — all painting a picture of a house of cards where any number of factors could collapse it. But it isn’t only about finding good guests and having a smooth broadcast — a lot of thought must go into how they work together. When speaking with newer streamers such as Samwitch and Noah “Nandre” Andre — two creators that have found success with their comedy game show Hired or Fired — they focused more on the challenges of working with guests.
“We've had so many people on the show at this point,” Nandre explained. “I'm not gonna say we’ve run out of names, but we try to find good dynamics for the pairings. And sometimes that can be a little bit challenging because we want guests to be with people that they will riff off of well. Sometimes the challenge is convincing these big-name creators that are fantastic to go out of their comfort zone a little bit. But the ultimate strength that Sam and I have over people who do these kinds of shows is that we're great at enabling our guests to be in the funniest positions possible.”
From all the figures that Inven Global approached, a regular ingredient mentioned was simplicity. An important similarity between a show like Hired or Fired and Island of Riches is how easy to understand their concept is. Not getting too complex not only makes for a digestible product, but makes it more comfortable for creators participating. Samwitch spoke of her emphasis on organization — letting guests focus on having fun and enjoying the program, instead of dealing with any potential issues the stream may cause.
It’s clear organizing this content well requires a lot of dedication, which explains why an organization like OTK is selective in how it decides how to host shows. SynAck stated that, “it's the passion behind who's wanting to do the game show. We have many owners at the top that own the company, but they're also all content creators. And when they have an idea and come to the production team with that idea — because they have passion behind it — we can very quickly come up with any kind of twist or enhancement. Anything we want to do to the show to make it successful, on top of having the passion behind the creator and the host, helps empower the staff to make something much better. You never want to put a creator in a position where they don't want to do it because that trickles down everywhere — it's not going to be that great.”
Friendship and the future
It’s clear that it requires a mountain of work to create a successful game show — in organization, broadcasting, and performance. So why does it seem to be an ever-present force in the space? Is it a fad, and will it stop soon? When speaking with all those mentioned before, the answer to those questions is a firm “no”.
For one thing — people are still loving them. SynAck himself stated that it was some of his favorite content in the space, due to it being far more extravagant than the average stream. On top of that, he explained that it allowed streamers to interact that otherwise would not have. It's obvious there's a strong belief amongst industry leaders that game shows and similar content have a bright future. OTK has continued to pilot new game shows and continue old ones — recently launching a second season of Loot Goblins. On top of that, Ludwig and others recently launched OFFBRAND, an agency specializing in streamer events.
All this investment has created broadcasts far superior in quality compared to those only a few years ago. When speaking with Atroooix about what game shows stand out to him, he stated that OFFBRAND’s inaugural product JUICED is the new benchmark. Watching an episode, it’s clear to see why: great camera work, masterful set design, and a broadcast as smooth as butter.
It’s been exciting to see develop, according to SynAck, stating, “What I love now being in the industry is seeing how other game shows elevate what’s possible — we're all trying to make them greater and greater. I can't wait to see what someone comes up with next.”
Even without half-million dollar budgets, prospects are looking great for smaller game shows as well. Samwitch and Nandre echoed the idea that game shows make for great content in part because of the entertaining interactions with other content creators, but took the point even further — seeing it as an excellent avenue for fostering lasting friendships.
Both expressed appreciation for the different streamers they have not only networked with, but produced strong relationships with, which started through reaching out to them for Hired or Fired. Speaking with one of their guests, ThatSandwichDude, he shared that the experience working on the show with them was a joy, and has helped cultivate a stronger relationship with them. The opportunities for a streamer building a game show — both professionally and personally — appear to be endless.
As mentioned before, it’s not an easy road. Almost anyone can start a game show, but creating a successful one as a smaller streamer is a difficult task. When asking Samwitch about the future of game shows on the platform, she said, “Anybody can come up with a game show. There's so much reference material — you can do spin-offs of any number of the big ones we've known growing up. They will stay, but I do think that people are getting burnt out on them because there are so many. And when you say, 'Oh, I'm doing a game show. It's a spin-off of Wheel of Fortune', people aren’t as enthusiastic as they used to be. So it's going to become saturated. You're gonna have to have something that stands out in the future to have it work.”
Game shows are becoming more competitive at every level. With the biggest streamers, it’s a race to see who can have the grandest spectacle possible. When it comes to smaller creators, it’s a matter of putting something out that doesn’t blend in with the crowd. For both groups, it no doubt requires a strong amount of creativity, preparation, and dedication to have something work. For both groups as well, though, game shows provide endless possibilities.
When asking Atroooix for his opinion on game shows on Twitch, he saw it as only the beginning, saying, “Twitch will become the next version of television for the younger generation. Every single young person I know — they sit on iPads all day. And they watch VODs of everything: which is like normal TV. In the future, these shows are gonna be way more common. Future content creators will want to have the best stream on the platform. And to be the best, you have to do everything the best. And if I was a streamer that was up-and-coming, and I wanted to be at the top, I'd look at what everyone else was doing. ‘Oh, someone's doing their own game show. I want to do a game show as well.’ The numbers that these people get is crazy for their game shows, and people obviously love that sort of content because it's fun. And the fact that people are doing it live now and getting the recognition they are right now and the views that it's getting — it's only going to grow bigger, bigger and bigger.”
Editor note: Some of those featured in the article referred to by their online alias have not disclosed their full name. Some of the quotes were edited for brevity.