So you want to watch someone livestream. It’s possible now, across many platforms, to watch someone live. It could be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez repotting her plants and discussing the latest ongoings in the political sphere on Instagram. It could be a little-known band playing acoustic versions of their songs on Facebook. It could be two lifestyle influencers having a discussion and answering questions on TikTok. These are major platforms, which have a huge amount of users using them for things outside live streaming – which was a feature each of these platforms incorporated after it appeared there was a demand. Twitch was the first livestreaming-specific platform which made itself known in wider popular culture. It continues, despite an increasingly competitive market forming around them, to have a near-monopoly on streaming views.
What is Twitch?
Twitch’s early model was gaming-focused. It was a place for those – professionals and amateurs – who wished to stream their gameplay live to an audience. Not only this, but production teams built around titles broadcasted competitive esports tournaments – the likes of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, for instance. YouTube was the place for recorded content. Twitch was the go-to place for gamers to consume content live (with highlights or even complete recordings of the stream being uploaded to YouTube to cater to that audience too).
The platform catered to games of all kinds early on and still does now. Obviously, there’s an incentive for delivering content on major titles like Call of Duty: Warzone or League of Legends but there’s also big audiences for those playing at online casinos like Comeon here on Twitch or smaller, lesser-known indie games. It allows audiences to form around video games and around streamers/communities.
In recent years, Twitch has consciously expanded and looked to diversify its content categories. It’s “IRL” and “Just Chatting” additions have been notable successes. These have been particularly popular with the East Asian market, attracting and developing audiences for streamers which are regularly in the multiple thousands.
The platform has also seen growth come to it without them having to make changes or decisions themselves. A recent example would be chess. The ancient game which, often derided as a game for those of particular status, age, interests, etc., has attracted new interest after Chess.com started to sponsor and instigate streams surrounding their brand. Notably, they utilise Hikaru Nakamura – one of the best chess players in the world – as their centrepiece. He’d been streaming for a while, without much major attention, but after xQc, Rubius, Pokimane, Logic, and Rainn Wilson joined in one of Chess.com’s tournaments then things took off.
Due to Twitch’s success, as alluded to above, other platforms have incorporated live streaming features. YouTube and Facebook Gaming are now its two closest competitors. YouTube signed major streamers like CouRage and Valkyrae to exclusive contracts as well as working out a deal with Activision to broadcast the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch League only on YouTube. Facebook Gaming has stars use their platform but they seem less interested in esports productions. The issue both these huge social media sites have is that they are understood to primarily do other things beside live streaming. Facebook is Facebook and YouTube is for pre-recorded content (of any and every sort). Twitch is a gaming platform. This is where it has its edge.
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