From Stream to Ocean: How Twitch Has Changed the Games Industry
The pandemic transformed gaming and live streaming from a nerdy niche to an international pastime. In the past year, average viewership on Twitch has been well above 2.5 million and over 1 million streamers go live every day.
The widespread popularity of Twitch has undoubtedly changed the gaming landscape. Gamers have more opportunities to make money from their passion for gaming, and developers now vie to produce games that appeal to streamers.
Twitch is here to stay. But what impact has it had on the studios which produce our favorite titles? And what might we learn from the millions of people who tune in to watch every day?
It used to be that when you bought a game it was in its final form. But now, games regularly release updates, DLCs, and patches designed to capture the attention of new audiences and increase the game’s quality of life. While some updates are simple bug patches, game studios are increasingly focused on releasing event-based content that creates a stir amongst streamers and draws more players to their servers.
Almost every modern multiplayer title now uses events to promote their game, but the folks over at Epic Games are truly the experts when it comes to event-based content. Few gamers can forget when, in 2019, Epic Games blew up the Fortnite map and replaced it with a black hole. Even the BBC covered the event as streamers like timthetatman and marshmallow expressed just about every emotion on the spectrum.
While in-game events are a fun spectacle for regular gamers, their real appeal is for streamers and game studios. The reason is simple: games become “stale” quickly. Even the most popular games for steaming — League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto, and Valorant — have to regularly update their content to provide new heists, champions, and maps. This gives streamers something new to engage their audiences with and helps them build more active communities.
Representation and Community
Twitch is great for developers and streamers, but, for many, it’s more than just a business. Twitch has changed the social fabric of gaming and has given people the opportunity to connect with folks who look, think, and feel like themselves. This kind of representation is shifting the gamer demographic and helps developers make more representative, inclusive content.
Twitch itself does a good job of promoting diversity and inclusion on its site. Viewers can easily search LGBTQIA+ streamers and Twitch helps celebrate Black brilliance by supporting local community efforts and maintaining common-sense hateful conduct policies with greater power for moderators.
Streaming and content creation also has the potential to help gamers overcome socio-economic barriers. While some stereotypes about gaming and the working class are harmful, gamers from less socioeconomic advantaged backgrounds can use their talents to generate revenue from streams. These talented gamers can also develop video editing skills by making use of free editing software programs to post original video content that grows their following.
Of course, Twitch and gaming still have a long way to go when it comes to ethical standards and adequate representation. Activision-Blizzard — the studio behind Call of Duty and Overwatch — recently made headlines due to accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination that took place at its studios. Anyone who spends time on Twitch also knows that, despite moderator tools and perma-bans, trolls still find their way onto the platform and regularly harass marginalized streamers.
Twitch and gaming still have major issues when it comes to ethical standards, but gamers and viewers alike can’t help but sense a turning tide. In part, this is due to the influential commentary that streamers like violet and KangGaming have offered while playing with their friends on Twitch.
When viewing Twitch’s most popular titles, you may notice a common theme: they are all multiplayer games (or include multiplayer elements). Even Elden Ring, this year’s most popular RPG, allows players to take on Dungeons together or battle in PvP arenas.
Further Reading: Elden Ring is the Best Open World RPG in Over 15 Years.
The rise of multiplayer is, in part, due to increased access to high-speed internet and the production of free-to-play games. However, Twitch streamers also play their role in promoting multiplayer games with multiplayer capabilities. Grand Theft Auto V’s online multiplayer — originally a single-player RPG — is one of the most viewed games on Twitch, and continues to turn over massive profits that rival newly released games. Players today can do everything from realistic role-play to fantastical heists for an audience that regularly registers in the millions.
Seemingly every new title is contending for a piece of the multiplayer pie. Even primarily single-player games like Ghost of Tsushima to Death Stranding now have some form of multiplayer content to promote engagement and capture the attention of streamers. This makes for a future of gaming that is highly interactive and reliant upon tech-savvy players.
Gaming and Streaming in the Future
No one can predict the future of gaming, but the stars seem to point towards an industry driven by advancements in web 3.0 and the metaverse. While some folks are less-than-thrilled about web 3.0 (and the barrage of microtransactions that are sure to come with it) web 3.0 will offer greater content rights and powers for players who can own their identity and brand due to blockchain which already supports NFTs and crypto.
However, to find success in the future of gaming, streamers will need to update their skills to include more than just quicks-scopes and drop shots. The next generations will need to be savvy coders and creative content creators. Fortunately, there are already plenty of coding resources to support teens who may be able to use their knowledge to get a leg-up on the competition in metaverse-driven gaming content.
Twitch has changed the gaming industry for the better. By promoting diversity and inclusion, the streaming platform has reclaimed gaming from the clutches of online misogynists and internet trolls. Twitch also provides gamers from all backgrounds a space to create, find community, and come together around a shared love for gaming.