After Nintendo revealed that it would be bringing Fortnite to its Switch console during its presentation at E3 2018, it picked up over 2 million downloads in about 24 hours. Epic Games, the creators of the battle royale hit, also announced that Fortnite had picked up 125 million players since its launch just under a year ago.

Most notably among those players is Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, who boasts almost 2.5 million Twitter followers, over 13 million YouTube subscribers, the world’s largest Twitch subscriber total, and a current monthly income of over $500,000 from streaming alone.

While all hopeful professional streamers may aspire to Blevins’ numbers — as well as casual hangouts with celebrities like Drake — the reality is that his sudden rise is an anomaly. In 2017, Twitch reported 27,000-plus official partnered streamers selected out of two million — if every streamer applied, that’s an acceptance rate of barely one percent! Applicants must prove “large viewership” numbers and a regular streaming schedule of at least three days a week. The standard subscriber rate starts at $4.99 per month, and with Twitch taking a 50/50 cut, partners would need at least 2,000 subscribers to earn $5,000 a month.

Achieving game fame is only becoming more increasingly difficult, and so it’s important that up-and-coming gamers explore all avenues available to getting their name out there. While streaming platforms like Twitch are are the most common resource for gamers, they need to be considering an unconventional method: GIFs.

With billions shared every day, GIFs have quickly become a major disseminator of pop and digital culture. By efficiently spreading viral moments, GIFs are invaluable and powerful tools for those looking to build up their online following, or even go professional.

Players need to make every second count

A recent study conducted by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span is 8 seconds — a second shorter than that of a goldfish. Whether this evaluation of the human attention span is fully accurate or not, the point is that today’s pool of entertainment and information options is seemingly infinite, and so it’s critical to find a way to command people’s attention as quickly as possible. GIFs are as easy to consume as they are to create, and they catch the eye without the need for sound.

While streamers like Blevins can accrue over 4 million views on a nearly 20 minute-long video in under 24 hours, the same doesn’t apply to those without the same notoriety. In other words, no one wants to watch a random person’s 10-minute best-of compilation — but they just might watch one play.

A 10 to 20 second clip that showcase players’ best moment is ideal for grabbing attention. This length is perfectly suited to GIFs, although some platforms do offer lengths up to a minute, allowing gamers to capture moments that require a little more storytelling.

The same Microsoft study discovered that our ability to process and transform information into memory has actually gotten faster. An effective GIF has the ability to make an impact that far exceeds its loop time.

Mystery and hype are powerful tools

While a streamer’s ultimate goal is to build up a following on their profiles that generate revenue, directly advertising these channels can often have adversarial effects, especially when done right from the start.

The reality is that platforms like Twitch and YouTube have certain property associations, whereas GIFs present a far more digestible level of anonymity. Instead of simply requesting that people subscribe — read: give me money — streamers are able to demonstrate their value through GIFs. And when a streamer disseminates enough of their GIFs throughout forums and message boards like Reddit and 4chan, and throughout social media, they create a compelling narrative that converts viewers into followers.

Inherently tied to meme culture, the conversations surrounding gaming move rapidly. Not keeping pace with this conversation can have serious consequences. Recently, Blevins lost 40,000 subscribers because he took a two-day break from his regular streaming. While few other players even have that many subscribers to lose, a relative cost for a streamer on the come up could be a death sentence.

GIFs allow gamers to produce and share content quickly, and therefore maintain relevance on the latest trends. Done correctly, GIFs can even fashion gamers as the drivers of those trends.

Ultimately, the pursuit of game fame is a long road. Blevins’ gaming career started in 2009, playing competitive Halo, and it wasn’t until this year that he experienced such significant growth. But by combining platforms like Twitch with a consistent product line of GIFs, the only limit those hoping to make it big in esports or streaming will be their patience.


Update, 4:56 p.m. Pacific, June 26: The third paragraph has been changed to use Twitch’s numbers instead of those of a third-party site.


Richard Rabbat is the CEO of Gfycat — the creator platform for short-form looping content.