Around 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Ludwig Ahgren, a Twitch streamer in Los Angeles, turned on his camera and started streaming. He didn’t stop.
For the past five days, Mr. Ahgren has kept a near-constant livestream of his life. He plays video games, chats, cooks, eats and sleeps, all in the stream. In the evenings he organizes film evenings with his audience. Mr Ahgren lives with five roommates and his girlfriend, and some of them also play roles on camera helping him cook or exercise together.
He even poured into the shower (with shorts on).
All of this is part of what is known on Twitch as the “Subathon”. A subathon is a short period of time during which a streamer performs certain activities or stunts in order to get paid subscriptions to their channel. Some streamers set numerical goals. For example, when they reach 2,000 new submarines, they will eat something spicy in front of the camera or play a specific game for fans.
Ahgren, 25, structured his subathon so that each new subscription adds an extra 10 seconds to a watch that dictates how long it should stream. When Mr. Ahgren set things up that way, he imagined he would stream for a maximum of 24 hours, maybe 48 hours. Five days later, his subathon stream blew up and became the top stream on Twitch, driving tens of thousands of new releases daily when fans pay to see how long it can go. He has received more than 40,000 new subscriptions since streaming began.
“The weirdest thing is that every time I wake up it just keeps getting bigger,” Ahgren said. “Last night I went to bed with 30,000 spectators and 60,000 subs. I woke up to 70,000 viewers and 70,000 subs. “
That’s because an army of fans are working overtime in Mr Ahgren’s sleep to maximize his subscribers. They chat and play YouTube clips and videos for each other to keep the channel entertaining. Mr Ahgren’s name has been announced twice on Twitter in the past week, both times while he was sleeping.
“At night, the rest of us do our stuff for him,” said a 21-year-old student who stopped by Happygate and served as one of Mr. Ahgren’s moderators. “We try to keep everyone excited and highly motivated so that this continues as long as possible.”
“The sleep currents were really interesting,” said Stephen Seaver, 15, a Georgia high school student. “Basically, his mods happen” – which is short for moderators – “you take part in a Discord call and they keep calling and talking without worrying about subs.” The idea is that while he’s sleeping, the timer is running. “
Sleep streaming has become popular on Twitch and TikTok during the pandemic, where fans say they enjoy the nightly pop-up communities that make sleep streaming possible. Creators like them because they can literally make money while they sleep.
“I fell asleep on the stream last night and became the most watched streamer on Twitch,” tweeted Mr Ahgren on Monday. “What the hell is that anyway?” Later on Monday night, Twitch said goodnight to Mr. Ahgren from his official Twitter account.
Twitch, owned by Amazon since 2014, has seen a surge in popularity over the past year. The site has already expanded from a place where players could broadcast their Fortnite and Call of Duty game to a broader platform that spanned lifestyle, cooking, and political currents. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated that growth as people stuck at home searched for online entertainment.
Erin Wayne, director of community and creator marketing at Twitch, said streams like Mr. Ahgren’s were becoming more common on the platform. “It’s the idea of multiplayer entertainment where the community can influence a creator’s content and it’s growing in popularity,” she said. “The person consuming the content can have a direct impact and, in some cases, determine what happens in the content they consume. It’s inherently unique to Twitch. I think that’s why these types of marathons or streams of subscribers are so popular. “
Mr. Ahgren’s Stream can be seen as an extension of the trend for creators to monetize more and more parts of their lives, from making daily decisions about what to eat or wear to who to hang out with. Streams like his can create a deeper connection with fans who view the Subathon as a collective community experience.
“Whatever time of day you tune in, its stream is on and you’ll see lots of familiar faces chatting,” wrote Nathan Grayson, a gaming reporter, in Kotaku. “It’s only been on for three days, but it already feels like comfort food.”
It was that kind of comfort and connection that Mr. Seaver said attracted him: “While the content of the stream isn’t particularly special, it is the fact that you are all part of this community that made this truly rare event observed. ”he said. “You can watch Ludwig’s whole life for days. It’s not great for him, but you get so much content out of it and you get that you came together as a community and saw this happen. “
According to a September study by online lender CashNetUS, more and more people have made a living from streaming full-time on the platform, with a handful of the top-earning streamers making more than $ 1 million a year.
Twitch’s growth reflects the general boom in the gaming industry in 2020. Orders for home use in conjunction with the release of a new generation of video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony in November resulted in a financial reward. According to the NPD Group, gamers spent a record $ 56.9 billion in the U.S. last year, up 27 percent from 2019.
While Mr. Ahgren has already made six digits out of his electricity, he has encouraged his young fans to be responsible with their money. “I just told them,” Hey, don’t use your stimulus check on me, “he said,” make sure your bread is right before you give it away. “
Nobody knows how long Mr. Ahgren can go. Other Twitch streamers have been streaming relatively non-stop for over 31 days, but Mr Ahgren said he couldn’t imagine things getting to that point.
He has a trip ahead of him to visit his girlfriend’s family several hours north in a week, so he hopes things will end by then. If not, he’ll have to find a way to get his electricity onto the street. “I think this is a cool, once in a lifetime experience,” Ahgren said of his stream. “I’m excited to wake up every day because it will never happen to me again.”
Kellen Browning contributed to the coverage.