If 2014 was the year of streaming, it was also the year of Twitch.
Now synonymous with the online video service it brought to the fore of the games industry, Twitch's third year in business marked a record-breaking 12 months for the company; it surpassed 100 million monthly viewers, toted up over 16 billion minutes watched per month and was acquired by online retail behemoth Amazon in August for $970 million (585m).
The growth of live streaming has seen usage spread from consumers and web celebrities to publishers and developers as they hope to capitalise on its burgeoning popularity. EA, Ubisoft, PlayStation, Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda and Blizzard all increased their efforts on Twitch in 2014, with Square Enix utilising the platform earlier this year to tease its upcoming announcement of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Nearly every major publisher leverages their Twitch channels to create content for their consumers, in the same way they use Facebook or Twitter,” says UK sales director Michael Thomas. Twitch controls an increasingly large piece of brands' advertising budget.”
Players that stream titles can serve as low-cost, high-impact promotion – a consideration Thomas says is increasingly vital.
Games publishers are also purposely making their games more ‘stream-friendly',” he explains. There's an art to making your games fun for people to watch, as well as play.”
Pro-gaming remains a huge area for Twitch; the biggest eSports event to date, the League of Legends World Championship in Korea, used Twitch to broadcast around the world, with New York's Madison Square Garden among the major stadiums to host Twitch footage for thousands of fans.
Live-streamed press conferences and conventions were initially experiments, but now they are the norm,” Thomas observes. It's because some events sell out quickly, are industry-only, or can be cost-prohibitive for people on the other side of the globe. Live streaming removes all of these barriers.”
It's not just consumers who stand to benefit, either.
Everything a brand does requires some sort of measurement for success,” Thomas continues. In the games industry, that barometer is now measured by live viewership. Whether it's a game launch or an eSports event, the accompanying infographic always has a box for Twitch stats.”
"The integration of Twitch into
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
has made broadcasting
turnkey for gamers."
Michael Thomas, Twitch
While these impressive figures paint a bright future for Twitch, many will perceive live streaming's continuing ascent as a death knell for traditional games media.
Thomas isn't convinced: The biggest impact on traditional media is definitely live streaming,” he admits. Publishers and developers are frequently bypassing the traditional media to connect directly with their fans..
Traditional media can ride
this changing tide by building up their presence in the live streaming community.
While live streaming has definitely become an influencer of purchasing decisions by supplanting glossy trailers and static previews, there should always be a place for well-written thought pieces.”
Twitch has long been a serious player in the PC space, but had previously seen its adoption on consoles limited to those players willing to invest in additional game capture hardware and software.
This changed with PS4 and Xbox One, which saw Twitch built into the framework of their systems and simplified to a single button-press.
The integration of Twitch into PS4 and Xbox One made broadcasting very turnkey for hundreds of thousands of gamers,” Thomas says. In addition to representing a significant part of our broadcast base, console-specific triple-A games have helped expand the content on Twitch. Since both consoles are still continuing to iterate on their broadcast feature sets and are still in an early part of their life cycles, there should be many more innovations to come in the years ahead.”
So what's next for Twitch?
The firm has set its sights on territories further afield, seeing triple-digit growth in regions such as India, the Middle East and Italy.
The expansion and improvement of broadband around the world is opening up more doors,” says Thomas. Brazil, for example, improved its infrastructure over the last year and it's now one of the fastest growing markets for Twitch.”
It's clear that Twitch has no plans to slow its expansion yet.