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From humble beginnings to now being one of the largest live streaming services, Twitch has taken the world by storm. Initially, it started as a site called “Justin.TV” where the owner and creator, Justin Kan, live-streamed his life for others to watch. Quickly, he added the ability for others to stream also, and from there, it grew exponentially. Later, Justin.TV re-branded into Twitch, and continued to grow from there.
Even though Justin.TV was originally all about real-life live-streaming, it really found its audience with people live-streaming themselves playing video games. Today, gaming dominates Twitch’s categories, both in viewers and streamers. It’s why Amazon bought Twitch for nearly one billion dollars and has become YouTube’s main competitor.
Twitch has had a major impact on the world of gaming, from how people play games, to how developers build and market them.
Changing the Market
Before the widespread access of the internet, buying video games was a bit tricky. You could trust the words of journalists from gaming magazines like Nintendo Power, trust the recommendations of friends, rent a game from a store to try it out, or just blindly buy it. You couldn’t see footage of a game, watch another person experience it for the first time, or even watch trailers for upcoming releases.
The internet though changed all that. People could openly share opinions, watch trailers and gameplay, and learn more about a game before buying it. YouTube, social media, and gaming websites all contributed to it, but Twitch is a major player in how people decide to buy a game or not.
Many people trust Twitch streamers for game recommendations and gameplay specifically because it’s all live. With videos or written reviews, people can edit out their first impressions or skip game problems, but with live streaming, there is no filter. People get to watch a person they trust try out a game and get a real reaction to it. That includes them having fun, getting frustrated, any bugs or problems the game has, and how the game itself looks. If a person trusts the opinion of a specific streamer, and that streamer is having fun and recommends a specific game, they’ll be more likely to buy it themselves.
Twitch is even allowing people to purchase games directly through their service, and if you bought it while watching a streamer play that game, your streamer could get paid. If Twitch is able to sell a game, every streamer playing it acts as an active ad for that game.
Outside of a few gaming developers and world record holders, there weren’t many big name video gamers before Twitch and YouTube. Now though, there are streamers who have fan bases ranging from a few dozen passionate fans to millions of people watching every stream they put out. There are video game celebrities now, some becoming household names like PewDiePie, Markiplier, and Ninja. There have been gaming celebrities on talk shows like Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel, in TV commercials, and even guests at red carpet events with other major celebrities.
With just a camera, a mic, and something to do, anybody can broadcast to the whole world. Some grow a following and can make a full time living off of it, others do it strictly as a hobby, and many try it out only to quit soon after.
Some have even made a living for themselves on Twitch by not playing video games, but instead creating art, hosting podcasts and talk shows, or simply having conversations with their watchers. There is even tech that allows more traditional video cameras to instantly go live, letting people live-stream everywhere and anywhere they want. People can now do high quality video streaming while walking in the park, going to arcades, and letting people watch every part of their lives.
Twitch Goes Bananas!
Some people are so incredibly talented, but have no place or way to show it off. There are people that have beaten the hardest games created using only bananas and wires, others have created entertaining personas that make people laugh as they play, and some just tell really funny jokes. Twitch gives these people a place to share their talents with others that want to watch.
It’s not just for streamers to show off and entertain, watchers can too. One of Twitch’s biggest events, “Twitch Plays Pokemon,” had 1.1 million players and 36 million viewers. The system was incredibly creative and let the watchers as a community play through Pokemon. Never before in history has there been a collaborative effort like there was when Twitch played Pokemon.
Before the days of Twitch, there was a divide between game developers and gamers. Open communication was very hard, where gamers couldn’t easily give feedback, and developers couldn’t openly discuss their plans with the community. With Twitch though, now developers can communicate in a variety of ways in real time with their players.
Through Twitch, big and small game developers can share news about updates, receive live feedback, and even play their game with the community. Not only does this help players and developers better understand each other, it might lead to more players to become game developers.
The Beautiful Game
Twitch has lead the charge in eSports streaming, with nearly every competition hosted on the platform. Outside of a few tournaments being shown on one of ESPN’s multiple channels, Twitch is a major reason why eSports can even exist, by letting people across the world watch a game’s top players go head to head.
The Wild, Wild Web
For all the positives Twitch has brought into gaming, there are some negatives. The biggest being that Twitch, and the internet in general, has lead to toxicity in gaming. With the nature of livestreaming comes toxic people with the goal to ruin everybody’s day. Even from the earliest days of Justin.TV, people have “swatted” streamers, shot at their homes, and doxxed them for personal information.
It’s not just performing overly inappropriate acts, but many are just mean-spirited while on Twitch, both streamers and viewers. People are commonly insulted, berated, bullied while on Twitch, and that in turn, has lead to more toxicity in gaming as a whole.
Twitch is going to continue to play a big role in the world of gaming. As gaming culture evolves and spreads, Twitch will be a focal point for it all. Because of this, Twitch has a responsibility to continue to improve both its service and it’s community. They need to fight for the rights of both their streamers and viewers, alongside improving the platform to support those who are streaming as a living.