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The Rise and Rise of Twitch.

April 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comIn some ways, the ascent of Twitch should not have come as a surprise. This, after all, is the video games industry, and the video games industry is huge. And we mean, really huge: bigger than Hollywood and the music industry. This is all a roundabout way of saying that there’s a lot of money flowing around, and that usually means there’s legions of “customers” not far behind. And in this particular case, these “customers” aren’t just merely consumers in the same way people buy and consume, say, products from the oil companies; they’re bona fide believers of the industry, eager to consume more and more. It is in this space that Twitch operates.

Super Bowl by Another Name

There’s a school of thought that wonders how a service like Twitch, which mostly provides video game enthusiasts the chance to watch people play games, can exist in the first place. How can people be watching a game that should be mostly enjoyed through playing? Well, the same could be asked about the Super Bowl, or any sport for that matter. Why watch people throw a football around when you could be playing it yourself? And the answer is – it’s not about how the activity is consumed; it’ll be consumed through any channel possible. The next time someone rolls their eyes and asks how young people can stay indoors watching other people play a game, ask them how many hours they’ve spent in the past year watching pro sports on television. It is the same thing.

The Shifting Demographic

Twitch were able to capitalise on something that everyone could have seen coming if they had only been paying attention: that the youth of today are not like the youth of yesterday. For starters, the current youngsters (say, those under 24) are riding the wave of video game technology. This technology barely existed a few decades ago, but these young adults have grown up having spent their entire life with technology. They are the first generation in the history of the world to do so. Of course they were going to play by different rules. Also, it’s worth remembering that many of the people who are now watching (and making) Twitch videos spent their formative years playing games that were social in ways that they had never been before.

For Watchers, For Players

Twitch also provides a healthy dose of aspiration for the gamers who want to turn their hobby into an actual career. If you’re a really talented gamer, then you can just get a haircut, buy a webcam, create a Twitch banner, and begin streaming your talents for the whole world to see. If you have a likeable personality that others respond to, you could build a solid group of followers, and ultimately make money just by playing games. Essentially, Twitch is for the gamers, and nothing more, connecting them directly to one another and creating a space where they can talk with and watch each other play.

Goodbye to the Old Days

If you give a generation of children a whole collection of advanced technological devices from their birth, it’s expecting too much to expect them to then, at the age of 18, to turn around and say, ‘enough of this internet gaming stuff, let’s watch traditional television’. There’s a reason that television networks are worried, and that is: there’s about to be a whole generation of people rise to adulthood who don’t care whether they live or die. The internet is everything, including the new television. Television could feasibly be replaced almost entirely by Twitch, or services like it. We’re talking about Twitch in the context of video games, but that’s not all it is. There are tutorials, cooking shows, and even live broadcasts of political events. Between services like this and the high quality content on Netflix, why invest in cable?

Smaller, But More Committed Audiences

It’s not a surprise that Twitch doesn’t (yet) have the following to rival the big players of online video, Netflix and YouTube. Both of these websites receive a level of visitors that dwarfs what Twitch gets. However, it’s important to look past just the viewing figures. For instance, YouTube is some 25 times “bigger” than Twitch, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Twitch users are more “committed” than YouTube users. It’s easy to waste a few hours on YouTube, but you’ll probably acknowledge that that time was indeed wasted; Twitch users spend hours at a time watching live streams and would happily do so again.

Rivals

Given the success of Twitch, it’s understandable that others would want to get a slice of the pie. Google wanted to buy the site, but were told they couldn’t because they already owned YouTube, which had its ‘Let’s Play’ service which effectively did the same thing. Whatever Google is interested in, Facebook is usually also interested in. And just a few days ago, they made another move that shows their intent to rival Twitch and Google in this domain, allowing users to stream what’s on their computer directly to audiences. While this is a threat to Twitch, it’s unlikely they’ll be overly worried. Facebook has a tendency to roll out features because other companies are doing it, rarely improving that service. And in any case, the user base of Facebook is probably too general and not specifically interested in gaming enough for it to work long term.

To The Future

And to the future? With Twitch announcing that they’re about to start selling games through their site, they’re positioning themselves to be the number one resource for gamers on the web. They already have a head start on the gaming market, and plan to solidify their position by offering game buyers Twitch currency as an incentive to shop with them over others. And with the limitless funds of parent company Amazon behind them, we might just be seeing the emergence of an online heavyweight as they step into the limelight.

Staff Writer; Jerry Love


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