The last decade saw the emergence of live video game streaming as a mainstream source of entertainment. Twitch pioneered the sector’s growth from a pastime activity to an industry worth billions. With the growing audience, the Amazon-owned streaming platform has faced competition from online giants Microsoft, YouTube, and Facebook, but has still managed to retain its crown as the ultimate social broadcasting network for gamers.
What made Twitch so successful is that it was the first to provide viewers with unfiltered previews of video games. Since the content was streamed live, there was no room for using cutscenes and hiding the game’s flaws to manipulate the audience into buying it. The opportunity to get a genuine sneak peek into a game before committing it was one of the key factors in catapulting Twitch’s fame after its initial launch. The visibility of Twitch also helps titles find audiences and it’s how even free indie horror demos can make a splash on the platform.
Twitch also did wonders in bringing the eSports community closer together and establishing it further into a competitive sporting event. Furthermore, Twitch encouraged a global expansion of the scene by making it easier to arrange and broadcast tournaments. The inclusion of a delay server, for example, eliminated the chance of cheating in a professional matchup. These early features for the scene helped Twitch’s tournament friendly platform be instrumental the incredible growth of eSports. Additionally, Twitch has been hosting TwitchCon since 2015, where thousands of Twitch streamers and fans get to physically interact with each other from across the platform.
As live game streaming grew in size, it was only a matter of time for other streaming services to enter the market and challenge Twitch’s monopoly. Microsoft tried early with Beam, which failed to catch on and was later rebranded as Mixer. YouTube and Facebook also hoped to dethrone Twitch with their already large and established user base. Facebook has a whopping daily following of 1.66 billion people around the world, while YouTube also pulls twice the daily traffic (30 million) to that of Twitch’s (15 million). But, both of these social media behemoths are playing catch up to Twitch, which still boasts more than 60 percent of the total live gaming stream viewership.
However, both Facebook and YouTube have experienced substantial growth in game streaming viewership lately. The watch time for Facebook gaming streams has grown 210 percent in December 2019 from December 2018. YouTube and Mixer have also added substantially to their hours watched statistics at the same time. Recruiting prominent Twitch streamers have proved to be a successful strategy for these platforms. The likes of Corinna Kopf (Facebook), ZeRo (Facebook), CouRage (YouTube), Ninja (Mixer), Shroud (Mixer) have all left Twitch to sign exclusive deals with other platforms.
But until now, competitors poaching celebrity streamers couldn’t hamper Twitch’s supremacy in the game streaming industry. In December 2019, Twitch’s market share in game streaming fell to 61 percent from December 2018’s 67 percent. But in absolute terms, Twitch’s viewership was still on the rise.
In 2019, people spent 727,965,497 hours watching Twitch streams, which is almost 12 million hours more than Twitch’s 2018 watch time. In the first quarter of 2020, Twitch continued to dominate game streaming as it accounted for 72 percent of the total watched content.
While Facebook and YouTube banks on their colossal number of users to force Twitch out of the market, they fall behind in one significant aspect – specialization. Twitch knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t wish to crawl out of its comfort zone. Facebook and YouTube are both huge names in cyberspace, but in the world of game streaming, they are still newbies. Twitch has already built a strong community which feels at home in the platform. Additionally, Twitch remains committed to its original niche, whereas Facebook and YouTube need to sort out their priorities as they try to branch out in a new and still developing market.
Discovering streams is totally hassle-free on Twitch. As soon as you land on the site’s homepage or open the app, you will be flooded with stream recommendations. Besides informing you what your subscribed streamers are doing, you also get stream suggestions based on your watch history. This makes the connections between streamers and their content pivotal in growing the platform as a whole.
Finding gaming streams on Facebook and YouTube is much more difficult than it is on Twitch because of their content variety. Even though both platforms have gaming-only sections none of them manage to highlight live feeds like Twitch. Facebook’s new gaming app might help in improving the streaming experience for gamers, but it won’t be easy to cultivate a gaming culture that can match Twitch’s dynamics. Additionally, the usage of real names on Facebook compared to created handles for Twitch makes hiding your personal information more difficult.
Notable Twitch streamer Pokimane recently renewed her commitment to Twitch by signing a deal and ignoring offers that had put “life-changing money” on the table. She pointed out Twitch’s reliable streaming infrastructure as the persuasive force behind her decision to stick with the platform.
Any other platform is going to have a much longer delay than Twitch, which really sucks. Especially because you’re moving your community around to a whole other website, and interaction is even that much more important to keep them around.Pokimane, famous League of Legends and Fortnite streamer.
She also went on to stress how Twitch’s interactive elements gives it an edge in the streaming wars. She said that Twitch fosters connection, stating that “I just feel like Twitch is an entertaining community to follow and to be a part of.”
Similar sentiments were voiced by new YouTube gaming recruit Valkyrae in a live chat with her fans in March 2020, where she described she now feels like being on an island after trading Twitch for YouTube.
“I’m going to work on being better… the switch from YouTube has made me feel like I’m on an island, but I want to fix that now,” Valkyrae said. I want to focus on being better now, and I will focus on myself for once.”
As things stand, Twitch is still the first choice streaming platform for gaming enthusiasts around the world. The platform recognizes it doesn’t need to expand its boundaries to stay relevant. Instead it needs to keep on doing what it has been doing all along – creating content for their devoted users instead of solely trying to reach out to a broader audience. If Twitch manages to hold on to its operational priorities, it won’t have to worry about its deep pocketed rivals curbing its dominance in the foreseeable future.