Launched nine years ago, Twitch entered a world that was unprepared for its potential. In 2011, digital marketing was a field rapidly evolving and emerging alongside the booming tech industry. From virtual reality, to live streaming, to cryptocurrency, leading entrepreneurs worldwide scrambled not only to understand the potential growth in the tech sector, but to figure out which startups and promising ideas to invest in.
Like Bitcoin demonstrated in 2008, the future was anyone’s game, and even something as standard as currency could be challenged and reinvented. Twitch, at the time, was a recent brainchild of the 2007 Justin.tv phenomenon, whose live game streaming became the site’s focal point almost immediately. In 2011, Justin.tv become Twitch.tv, with the name ‘twitch’ as an ode to a style of gameplay.
By December of 2013, only six years after Justin.tv had launched, Twitch had 100 employees, was headquartered in San Francisco’s Financial District, and had accrued a total of $42 million dollars in venture capital investment. That’s not a typo. Twitch streaming, in its first year of profitability in 2013, had already received $42 million in investment.
So, how did this happen? At the time, Twitch.tv was competing against other ultra-successful video streaming services like YouTube and Dailymotion. However, in Twitch’s case, their meteoric rise was due to its association and near monopoly of the eGaming video streaming sector.
This enabled Twitch to become the US’s fourth largest source of internet traffic during peak hours in the year 2014, performing behind only sites such as Netflix, Google, and Apple. In the same year, Twitch was acquired by Amazon along with its 55 million active monthly users. Its numbers only continued to skyrocket, with 100 million monthly viewers by the next year, 2015, and, only three years later in 2018, 15 million daily viewers.
From a digital marketing perspective, Twitch had managed to accomplish one of the most necessary feats: determining the target demographic. In this case, Twitch managed to fit into the budding, quasi-underground world of eGaming that has consistently sought out improved platforms. They began producing some of the most prolific egame streams, led by individual players as well as entire eGaming teams and competition formats.
Not Just for eGaming
The success of Twitch TV was born from its early hold on the egaming community. As of March 2020, global standout games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2, and Rocket League mark the largest esports hours. Esports hours, in this case, are defined by the number of hours from professionally organized esports leagues alone, and doesn’t take into account individual streams. The top two games, Counter-Strike GO and League of Legends account for 20.3 and 10.3 million esport hours for March 2020 alone.
However, Twitch’s stay power is based on the fact that live streamers can actually stream whatever content they choose. While Twitch built itself on eGaming, it’s a versatile platform, able to integrate not only video games but popular games in general. The game of poker has 1.5 million followers on the platform, with the streaming group PokerStars contributing 200,000 followers alone. Even a channel as general as ‘board games’ has nearly 100,000 followers, who will watch a streamer play games from Malifaux to Cards Against Humanity.
Musicians like Drake to Travis Scott have also entered the world of Twitch streaming to do celebrity appearances for games like Fortnite. Given that 20% of Twitch streaming comes from the US, it’s likely that more celebrities of all stripes will opt to start their own streams. And future streamers won’t be limited by content.
As aforementioned, Twitch.tv has become a place to stream anything. One of the most successful streams include South Korean personality Hachubby, who posts various artistic content with little narrative or focus.
There are also users like NoHandsKen. NoHandsKen, in particular, showcases the wild (and heartwarming) potential that Twitch has come to embody. As a quadriplegic man bound to a chair, NoHandsKen participates in his favorite games by using a mouthpiece that functions like a joystick (a ‘jouse’) and allows him to play PoE Bloodlines. To date, his channels has nearly 1 million views and over 36,000 followers.