Twitch started out under the guise of Justin.tv but was soon acquired by Amazon back in August 2014 for the princely sum of $970 million. Since then, Twitch has slowly but surely worked its way into the psyche of millennial gamers, developing a global following and a community that is now ingrained in gaming culture. If you are an avid video gamer or online gamer, you will likely have watched one form of a live stream, whether it’s of a single-player game or a co-op multiplayer game, streaming gaming action has become big business.
For some gamers, streaming to their followers has become a business, with platforms such as Twitch giving gamers an opportunity to educate newcomers and build a rapport with other seasoned veterans. While YouTube has become a video sensation for all kinds of themed content, Twitch has quietly gone about its business by creating an online community dedicated exclusively to gamers.
Within three years of operating under the Twitch umbrella, the platform’s community soared from one million to 10 million, boasting 60 million unique visitors per month. There are two reasons why Twitch has captured the hearts of many around the world: it’s a portal for those passionate about video games and who want to experience their favorite games in a meaningful way. Twitch has also helped passionate video gamers to interact with other loyal fans with a 24/7, uninterrupted service.
According to Marcus Graham, the Director of Community and Education at Twitch, it is possible to break down the platform’s user base into four demographics. Firstly, Twitch has millions of passive viewers that watch and don’t participate in any of the streams’ live chats. Secondly, there are the loyal fans that log in religiously to follow their favorite streamers and participate in gamers’ live successes. Thirdly, there are the dedicated broadcasters that enjoy hosting live streams to discuss their gameplay and those of their followers, operating as an educational tool for beginner gamers. The most popular Twitch broadcaster, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, reportedly earns $500,000 a month. Finally, the success of Twitch is also enticing actual game developers and publishers to utilize the platform as a marketing tool, teasing new releases and enhancing gamers’ experiences.
The first successful marketing campaign that Twitch undertook centered on Pokémon Red, earning a Guinness World Record for securing the “most participants on a single-player online video game.” It was a sign of things to come that Twitch had become a platform for entertainment and creativity.
The explosion of esports as a credible industry has seen live streaming of professional esports tournaments becoming rife with competitive titles such as FIFA, Dota 2 and League of Legends all securing massive viewing figures on Twitch. Twitch also secured the exclusive streaming rights to the debut Overwatch League, which reportedly has set the platform back $90 million. It’s not only video games that attract a global following on Twitch, either. PokerStars Spain recently streamed the PSPC Championship live to its Twitch followers, with compatriot Ramon Colillas prevailing after freerolling his way into the tournament, scooping an eye-watering $5 million first prize.
Twitch is also trying hard to utilize its relationship with Amazon, one of the world’s biggest online game distribution platforms, to further enhance its exposure. Amazon Prime customers now get access to Twitch Prime, giving them exclusive access to games and in-game add-ons. It is in an enviable position of being able to set the tone for the live-streaming world — and a few platforms are likely to be able to keep up.
The year 2018 was a landmark year for Twitch, with some 434 minutes of live streaming consumed. The platform has also given rise to several full-time gaming broadcasters with the number of streamers that monetize their Twitch channel growing by 86 percent year-on-year in 2018. It’s also true that the perception of Twitch has evolved through the years, as it’s no longer a community designed solely for spotty teenagers that rarely see the daylight. It’s a place where real life meets the virtual world, creating a new level of celebrity status for Twitch streamers.