When talking about streaming games live on the internet, it’s actually very hard not to talk about Twitch. It seems to be the word on everyone’s lips and the keyword currently in every search engine. It’s been synonymous with the rise of mega-famous streamers such as Ninja and Myth, and has been pivotal in the creation and nurture of competitive gaming and eSports as a whole. So, what exactly is Twitch all about? How does it function and how did it suddenly spring into the public Zeitgeist from seemingly nowhere?
The origins of Twitch have to do with two men by the names of Justin Kan and Emmett Shear who owned a site called Justin.tv, which allowed anyone to broadcast videos online. The original concept of the site was centered around broadcasting the life of Justin (hence the very unique URL) and was responsible for coining and popularizing the term “lifecasting.” The website also had a gaming section which grew in popularity and was eventually named Twitch.tv in 2011. Twitch has consistently gathered massive traffic since then, pulling in over 35 million unique visitors a month. After Justin.tv was renamed Twitch, the company was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million. But even with such a huge price tag behind it, Twitch was still a haven for gaming enthusiasts to stream and watch their favorite content away from overt scrutiny.
Twitch enters the mainstream
Only after Amazon’s acquisition did Twitch start to evolve into a more mainstream video service. This was helped thanks to aforementioned streamers such as Ninja and Myth, who found ways of not only streaming games to fans who wanted to watch games be played on an elite level, but also added a level of showmanship to each stream. The attention of the service reached a peak when Ninja streamed a live game of Fortnite with rapper Drake, and was watched concurrently by over 635,000 people. It signified the end of Twitch being a niche that only gaming enthusiasts utilized and set it firmly in the mainstream.
Looking to the future
So, will it be purely gaming streams in the future? Probably not. Although Twitch announced a two-year exclusive deal for the Overwatch League with Blizzard, they have also secured a deal with the National Basketball Association in which Twitch would broadcast NBA G League games. It wouldn’t be the first time Twitch broadcasted to bigger audiences – the company broadcasted a live performance of Steve Aoki’s show in Ibiza in 2014 – but it does mark its ambition to expand into bigger and more diverse markets rather than simply gaming. It seems a smart choice especially when you consider that the typical viewer using Twitch’s services tends to be a male between the ages of 18 and 34, typically the same type of demographic who would be into watching live sports. That being said, Twitch did mention that they’re making efforts at pursuing other demographics, including women.