Jan 29

Gamers Get Social, Share Skills and Gain Exposure on Twitch.tv


If you’ve never thought you could get excited about watching someone else play video games, you should watch the crowd reaction from an intense match during last year’s The International DOTA 2 Championship. This is the kind of excitement eSports hopes to create on a regular basis and Twitch.tv hopes to convince more viewers to watch live online.

Founded in 2011, Twitch allows anyone the ability to live-stream gaming content online, and as of November 2012 the site was clocking more than 23 million monthly viewers and growing by 10 to 15 percent per month.

The main page of the website displays the most popular titles, and many of the top competitive games such as League of Legends and StarCraft II have tens of thousands of viewers, split among dozens if not hundreds of channels. As a result, many of eSports’ top competitors have been able to promote themselves and the games they play. For instance, one of League of Legend’s top professionals, “Dyrus” has more than 77,000 followers and over 46 million total views. In addition to gaining notoriety, viewers can also donate funds to help cover gamer’s expenses.


Casual Gamers Leverage Platform to Share Skills, Build Audience through Engagement

But one of the most interesting developments has come through the popularity of traditionally non-competitive games and streams from non-professional players. On any given day you may see ordinary folks queuing up for a leisurely stroll through the classic Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda, a marathon session of World of Warcraft, or trying to complete Super Mario 64 in record time. This community of ‘everyday’ gamers is helping to drive diverse and interesting content on the site.

In addition to simply watching the stream, each Twitch.tv channel can also serve as a repository for favorite video segments and a live chat room. In many cases information about game updates allow streamers to discuss and theory-craft about the impact to competitive and casual gameplay.

The instantaneous feedback also enables a high level of engagement, and in the case of games like Diablo III, players can host events, do giveaways, or help with in-game achievements. Some channels even offer a system where viewers can earn points through participation and redeem them for in-game rewards or personalized advice about gameplay.

The end result is that streaming sessions end up resembling a free-form, interactive video podcast. Many have a loose format, and go where the player and audience take them. Participation on streams is often very high, and by using specific chat keywords; streamers can randomly select viewers from the audience to win contests or automatically post links to content outside of Twitch.tv.


Game Developers See Potential in Live Streaming, Offer Integration

One reason why gamers may be compelled to watch others play online – they get the benefit of the social interaction while enjoying a favorite hobby. According to a report by the Entertainment Software Association, 68 percent of gamers play with someone else, either online or in-person. The report also reveals that gamers are typically 30 years old and have been playing for 12 years. Perhaps the most illuminating fact is that 47 percent of the time gamers are female. Quite a departure from the stereotype of the adolescent male, hunkered down alone in his parent’s basement. All this goes to show that the gaming audience is becoming more diverse, and Twitch.tv has an opportunity to reach a large number of engaged consumers.

Console and game developers have certainly taken notice of Twitch.tv, and many are building applications to allow gamers the ability to directly stream content to the web. Sony Online Entertainment was the first developer to offer this integration in the recent release of Planetside 2.  It’s a sure sign that more and more gamers will come online to test their mettle as gamers, and entertainers.

Whether you consider yourself a gamer or a just a casual fan, I suggest you check out Twitch.tv and see who’s playing your favorite game!


- Eric Sevick is a Senior Analyst at Zócalo Group. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericsevick.