How a retro gaming channel grew to 34K subscribers earning $5K/month

Jul 11 2022
Case Studies

Channel snapshot (at time of posting)

Name – Restalgia
Niche – Gaming (retro), technology, product/software reviews, tutorials, unboxing
Subscribers – 34,600
Watch time – 4500 hours (30 days), 310K (lifetime)
Revenue – >$5K/month from all related sources
Videos published – 266
Date of first video – Jan 1, 2017 (but didn’t begin trying to build channel until Oct 31, 2018)
Employees – solo (but recently started working with an editor)

Why/what made you want to start this YouTube channel?

I never really intended to start a YouTube channel.

Raspberry Pi 768x452

I was doing some work on a single board computer (a Raspberry Pi) that required some customized coding. I spent hours looking for a video tutorial because I’m a visual learner and all the written guides online were either incomplete or not up to date with the current software.

I eventually figured it out and thought to myself

“I can’t be the only person looking to do this exact thing”

So, I created my very first video tutorial and posted it on YouTube. It didn’t get many views at first but I did have some engagement, and people requested additional videos.

First Video Tutorial

Restalgia’s first video tutorial

The key for me, I think, was I had the ability to clearly explain/teach people how to do things in a very straight forward step by step process.

How did you get started?

Everything I did was self taught and done with little to no cost.  

I started with the very basics:

  • A cheap gaming headset with a microphone (~$30 at the time)
  • A 5 year old used laptop
  • Free online software for screen and audio capture like OBS
  • MS Paint to make my thumbnails

How did you get to 10, 100, 1000 subscribers and ultimately where you are currently?

To get my first 10 subscribers, I just kept listening to my audience. They told me exactly what content they wanted me to make via YouTube comments and frequent emails from viewers with requests.

Some comments on Restalgia’s earliest tutorial videos

To get my next 100 subscribers, I caught a bit of a break when another local, larger YouTuber agreed to showcase one of the custom retro gaming devices I made.

Until now, I was mainly posting content about creating retro gaming devices by custom coding on the Raspberry Pi.

But to get to 1000-5000 subscribers, I shifted to more mainstream content in the retro gaming niche. I focused on more popular, commercial devices like the PlayStation Classic, Super Nintendo Mini and Sega Genesis Classic consoles. Although this was still technically within my niche, it allowed me to expand and reach a broader audience.

This was where I realized how exhausting being a YouTuber could be. All news related videos were a race to be first and capture as many views as possible.  

I also worked very hard to release videos that would get attention, and experimented with thumbnails, different titles, meta descriptions and even tags. I was never interested in clickbait types of videos, so I made a point to try to avoid doing that to my viewers. I provided factual information, and people really responded to my to-the-point style videos.

How Thumbnails Changed

How Restalgia’s thumbnails/titles changed early on

After 5000 subscribers, content ideas and growth came easier since I started having a number of companies offer to send me products to review. That coupled with the informational and tutorial videos I was producing seemed to tend my subscriber account in the right direction.

Throughout this period, I didn’t really have a set system or schedule. I just made videos in my spare time and posted them.

To promote my videos, I never spammed other platforms. If the content was relevant, I sometimes posted my videos to social media groups and channels. But mostly, I just shared videos on my personal/channel Facebook and Twitter accounts and relied on the YouTube algorithm to do its thing.

How much money are you making (and how)?

The channel currently averages more than $5000 a month from:

  • Advertisements (10-15% or $500-750/mo)
  • Sponsorships (20-25% or $1-1.25K/mo) – companies offering free product, paid promotions (e.g. social posts or product overview videos)
  • Affiliate marketing programs (65% or $3.25K/mo) – mostly posting Amazon affiliate links in my video descriptions (incredibly effective but requires as much/more work than making YouTube videos)

Despite advertisements being the smallest source of revenue, the YouTube channel makes the remainder of my revenue possible. Sponsorships grew considerably as my channel grew larger as did traffic for affiliate marketing.

In my experience, when starting out with paid promotions, the average spend is ~$5 per 1000 subs you have (with variations depending on genre). It’s also important to note that I turned down a large number of “sponsorship” opportunities because I was required to read a script, and not allowed to be honest about what was being offered.

Don’t compromise on your core values for an opportunity with a brand. There will bigger and better opportunities in the future if you keep producing quality content.

If you could go back to square one again, what would you do differently?

Don’t take people’s criticism personally. Although the overwhelming majority of engagement you get will be positive, the negative comments can hurt.

Pick a small niche and hyper-focus on well-researched content within it. Find out what people are searching for. Join, engage (but don’t spam) and read related subreddits, forums, and Facebook groups. Research the common topics that come up and cater your content around what people are looking for.

After building a viewer base, start branching out and adding new topics. Do this slowly and over time, and you will have some sustainable growth.

Take it slow. YouTube is a long-term game. If you are trying to grow massive in a short amount of time, you could be setting yourself up for failure. If a video performs poorly, review the analytics, adjust, and keep moving forward.

Where can we find out more about Restalgia? And is there anything else you’d like to add?

Check out my YouTube channel and also my TikTok account where I post retro-gaming “short” style videos.

I also do a podcast called Super GameRoom Dudes with four other content creators. The focus is long-form discussions on what’s happening in the home arcade market and retro video game industry.

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