When Twitch announced in March it was going to sell games and give creators and developers the chance to earn a cut of each sale, the industry wasn’t sure what to make of it – though a potential competitor for Steam looked to be a major positive.
While the platform said it wanted to “better serve [its] passionate community” and help them “make a living doing what they love,” others were less keen on the idea, saying it had the potential to turn streamers into little more than biased salespeople.
For the Bath-based agency We Are Reach, such matters were of little concern. Indeed, the company hadn’t even been formed at that point, with its three co-directors Nathan Ditum, Rob Pearson and David Jackson (pictured below, centre, left and right) still working under The Yogscast’s banner in Bristol making Sony’s official YouTube channel PlayStation Access.
Now, having stepped out on their own, Twitch and its streaming platform rivals are now very much at the forefront of the team’s thoughts.
“In a way, [game sales are] a logical next step,” Ditum tells MCV. “Big YouTube channels have been talking for years about their ability to showcase games to help raise awareness and sales. This creates a mechanism to track that influence and to reward content creators and the platform they’re working on.”
Nevertheless, Ditum says that game sales in and of themselves aren’t a particular concern to his new agency. “We’re definitely looking to do more streaming, but our position is different to most content creators because we’re working with clients to build communities and showcase their brand,” he explains. “So tips and subscriptions on Twitch, say, aren’t as important to us as how Twitch – or Facebook or even Twitter – helps us to reach the audience that our client is after.”
And those audiences, according to Ditum, are still largely to be found on platforms such as YouTube. “The streaming industry is growing and doing some very interesting things and I think the position compared to on-demand is where it’s been for a while – great revenue opportunities for personalities that really connect with their audience, even though those audiences might be smaller than, say, YouTube,” he comments.
“But YouTube moves so quickly – both in terms of audience taste and the response of creators – that anything is possible. On the one hand, I think the foundation of gaming’s popularity on both Twitch and YouTube is that people like to watch other people playing games and having fun.
“On the other hand, Pewdiepie has basically been deconstructing that very format for maybe a couple of years now, and he’s the biggest YouTuber on the planet. Things always evolve.”
Right now, though, YouTube holds the upper hand when it comes to format variety, says Ditum: “I think that’s one of the reasons games have found such a happy home on YouTube. There are loads of different ways of playing and showcasing games – even ‘Let’s Play’ is a catch-all that houses an incredible variety of approaches – and I think that’s helped fans of all different tastes and dispositions to find communities and content they can feel a part of.”
The key is being able to make content that feels natural and fun.
As for where streaming and on-demand platforms will go in the future, however, Ditum says anything is possible: “I have no idea. Honestly, my children consume media in a way I couldn’t have guessed even five years ago. To have companies as diverse as Google, Amazon, Facebook and even Netflix competing for the attention of players and consumers, with the move to digital retail and the unknown potential of VR hovering in the background, all I can say is that it won’t be what any of us are expecting.”
For the time being, We Are Reach’s primary concern is still the continuation of Sony’s PlayStation Access channel, but Ditum says he’s surprised more publishers haven’t jumped on the same idea.
“I think they should have their own shows, and I think they should call us about making them,” he says. “It’s a really interesting area – making a channel for a client like PlayStation is very different to running a channel for an editorial site, which is again very different from a standalone YouTuber or influencer.
“We’ve learned a huge amount since switching from a weekly ten-minute show to YouTube, and I understand that aligning the needs of a specific campaign or brand image with the kind of content that does well on Twitch and YouTube can be difficult. But it can be done, and it’s an amazing way to speak to your audience.
“We’re really lucky to work with PlayStation. The key is being able to make content that feels natural and fun, that makes it obvious to our audience that we like games and feel the same way about them as they do. The confidence and support from PlayStation has made that possible.”