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For Twitch viewers, it’s not about the games; it’s the personalities

eSports and gaming remain at the core of Twitch’s business. However, the platform increasingly focuses on the people, not the games they are playing. The new focus is taking it to places it has never been before.

Gaming and eSports still key

Twitch.tv, the streaming platform for eSports events and gaming, was spun out of Justin.tv in 2011. The platform grew quickly, and by 2014 it had surpassed its parent, becoming the fourth highest source of internet traffic in the US. Companies such as Amazon and Google took note, and on August 25, 2014, Amazon announced that it had acquired the company for $970 billion.

Currently, Twitch has 140 million unique users, with 2.2 million people broadcasting on the platform each month. Fifteen million users visit every day and spend, on average, 95 minutes viewing. There have also been some astonishingly large events on Twitch. For instance, last year, over 1.1 million concurrent users tuned in to watch the ELEAGUE finals.[i]

Notwithstanding such incredible statistics, there is one that may be even more surprising: only 21.3% of Twitch viewing is eSports.

Twitch spreads its wings

Although Twitch began as an exclusive channel for video gamers, it has expanded to include a variety of genres. In September 2018, Twitch announced that it was retiring its IRL (In Real Life) label and introducing new unique categories such as Food & Drink, Fitness, Travel and many more. The change might be perplexing to anyone that thinks Twitch is only for gaming. However, Twitch views its role as much broader than that.

Consider the case of Richard Tyler Blevins, who goes by the name Ninja on Twitch and is one of the most popular gamers. He rose to prominence by competing in Halo tournaments and quickly attracted a large following. Many would assume that Ninja’s following came about because of his skill as a video gamer. However, though he is the most popular, he is not the best. The reason for his popularity is his personality.

While Ninja’s proficiency at gaming is not questioned it his ability to entertain that keeps his audience engaged. While Ninja plays his video games, he narrates the experience making it feel as if the viewer is ‘hanging out’ with him. Just as many people enjoy playing video games with their friends in the same room, having Ninja playing in the background provides a similar experience.

The social aspect of the experience appeals not only to gamers but also to everyone.

Is Twitch done playing games?

Twitch is far from ditching its video game roots. However, it is clear the platform’s appeal is not centered on the games themselves but the people playing them.

On Twitch you can find users discussing politics, doing ASMR (don’t ask)[ii], or just chatting with fans. All of this is done live and allows users to communicate easily with their favorite streamers. A few top personalities are earning millions of dollars from donations.

Twitch is leading a new way of consuming and broadcasting content. YouTube, and especially Facebook have all attempted to get users to use their LIVE features more regularly. Twitch thrives on live creating an engaging atmosphere which regularly sees users spending an hour and a half on the platform.

It’s unclear how quickly these new genres on Twitch will grow or if this is going to be the new way young people hang out. One thing is certain: many viewers will continue to welcome their favorite Twitch personality into their daily lives.

Why it matters

Twitch is hugely popular with gaming

Twitch is becoming popular in other genres

The appeal of Twitch is not the games but the personalities

[i] ELEAGUE is a professional esports league

[ii] ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response

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