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Massive Twitch hack reveals streamers’ pay, with top stars making millions

General Launcher illustration for Twitch (The Washington Post illustration; Twitch)
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Tuesday night, an anonymous user on the anything-goes online forum 4chan posted a 125GB torrent they said contained the “entirety of” going back to “its early beginnings,” as well as payouts for over 10,000 streamers. Twitch confirmed the breach via Twitter Wednesday.

The 4chan user posted the leaked information — which they said comprises almost 6,000 internal repositories — to “foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space,” calling Twitch’s community “a disgusting toxic cesspool.” This comes in the wake of Twitch’s recent hate raid woes, in which malicious users have employed dummy accounts and bots to spam streamers with hateful language. Notably, the 4chan user concluded their post with the hashtag #DoBetterTwitch, seemingly a play on the #TwitchDoBetter hashtag that shined a light on hate raids in August. (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

Among many other things, the leak includes streamer payout details since 2019, source code for multiple versions of the Twitch client, Twitch software development kits and Amazon Web Services code, and what appears to be an unreleased gaming client akin to Valve’s Steam PC gaming platform called “Vapor.”

“We can confirm a breach has taken place,” Twitch wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this. We will update the community as soon as additional information is available. Thank you for bearing with us.”

While members of the Twitch community are concerned about password safety and other security issues, streamer payouts have generated a significant amount of discussion. Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker, a popular leftist news pundit, was trending on Twitter Wednesday as a result of his pay — $2,810,480.11 since 2019, making him the 13th highest paid creator on Twitch. He pointed out on Twitter, however, that he’d already more or less made this information public.

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“Can’t wait for [people] to be mad at me about my publicly available sub count again,” he said, referring to the fact that his subscription count is visible in the corner of all his streams. Subscriptions cost $4.99, though that revenue is split with Twitch.

In total, 81 streamers have allegedly received over $1 million from Twitch since 2019. This appears to be a composite of money made off ads, subscriptions and other features within the Twitch ecosystem, meaning it does not account for other common ways streamers make large portions of their money: brand deals, channels on other platforms like YouTube, merchandise and, in some cases, viewer donations that don’t utilize Twitch’s systems.

Even with this in mind, Twitch’s highest paid individual streamer, Félix “xQc” Lengyel, is listed as having made $8,454,427.17 since 2019. Others, like veteran streamer Jaryd “Summit1g” Lazar, are in a similar ballpark, having made over $5 million since then. Nicholas “Nickmercs” Kolcheff, who announced a new exclusivity contract with Twitch on Tuesday, has been paid $5,096,642.12 over that time frame, making him the site’s fourth highest-paid individual streamer.

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More mainstream names like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Imane “Pokimane” Anys are a bit further down the list, but both have pulled in well over $1 million since 2019. Blevins’s payout carries the caveat that he left Twitch in August 2019 for Microsoft’s now-defunct streaming platform, Mixer. He returned to Twitch in September 2020.

The highest paid Twitch channel of all is not an individual, but rather a collective; “Critical Role,” a long-running tabletop role-playing show, is listed as having been paid $9,626,712.16 since 2019. For some in the tabletop role-playing community, this has been cause for reflection.

“Critical Role earning $9 million, just in Twitch payouts, means we should really all be treating them like the multimillion dollar company [they are] and not just a group of friends,” tabletop game designer and podcaster Riley L. Hopkins wrote on Twitter.

The accuracy of these figures remains in question, as does the exact month of 2019 to which they date back. “World of Warcraft” and “Final Fantasy XIV” kingpin Asmongold (who has not divulged his full real name) disputed numbers purported to be his pay for the month of September, but told The Post that his pay since 2019 is “probably not wildly inaccurate.” Tanya “Cypheroftyr” DePass, a smaller streamer, said that her listed total was missing some revenue, possibly from a show she’s worked on with Twitch. Emme “Negaoryx” Montgomery, a streamer who’s achieved viral fame on multiple occasions, said that if these numbers are meant to be specific to the August 2019 through October 2021 time frame, they don’t match what she sees on her Twitch dashboard.

While viewers are enjoying poring over their favorite streamers’ alleged finances, streamers aren’t sure the leak is serving the purpose the anonymous 4chan poster intended. Ben “CohhCarnage” Cassell, who declined to confirm his payout due to contractual concerns, said he found the leak to be “frustrating and unfortunate.”

DePass shared that sentiment.

“Publicly dropping what creators make and forcing all of us to change our passwords, security, etc. isn’t the own these folks think it is,” she said. “Now there’s mass panic and folks using this as a way to go, ‘See, X Streamer or Y company isn’t broke’ or whatever their ax to grind is with them. … This is just going to mess with a lot of people and not get the intended result, which is to get Twitch to get it together. Until there is a viable competitor, these hacks just hurt the users.”

Montgomery thinks this stretches the already fraying relationship between Twitch and streamers to a breaking point.

“The timing couldn’t be worse for this to happen in terms of Twitch’s current public image," she said, pointing specifically to Twitch’s recent issues with hate raids, its failure to consistently protect or promote streamers outside the platform’s top ranks, and now security issues that impact everybody on the platform. "The general consensus among many small to midsize creators is that trust has been lost between many creators and viewers when it comes to Twitch. This is going to be a huge blow to them in terms of taking even larger steps back from that trust that desperately needs to be rebuilt.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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