Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.
Type of site
|Live streaming, streaming video|
|Alexa rank||26 (May 2019[update])|
|Launched||June 6, 2011|
|Emmett Shear (CEO)|
Sara Clemens (COO)
Number of employees
|1000+ (March 2018)|
The popularity of Twitch eclipsed that of its general-interest counterpart. In October 2013, the website had 45 million unique viewers,:38 and by February 2014, it was considered the fourth largest source of peak Internet traffic in the United States. At the same time, Justin.tv's parent company was re-branded as Twitch Interactive to represent the shift in focus – Justin.tv was shut down in August 2014. That month, the service was acquired by Amazon for US$970 million, which later led to the introduction of synergies with the company's subscription service Amazon Prime. Twitch later acquired Curse, an operator of online video gaming communities and introduced means to purchase games through links on streams along with a program allowing streamers to receive commissions on the sales of games that they play.
By 2015, Twitch had more than 1.5 million broadcasters and 100 million viewers per month. As of Q3 2017, Twitch remained the leading live streaming video service for video games in the US, and had an advantage over YouTube Gaming. As of May 2018, it had 2.2 million broadcasters monthly and 15 million daily active users, with around a million average concurrent users. Furthermore, it had over 27,000 Twitch partner channels (May 2018).
When Justin.tv was launched in 2007 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, the site was divided into several content categories. The gaming category grew especially fast, and became the most popular content on the site. In June 2011,:40 the company decided to spin off the gaming content as Twitch.tv, inspired by the term twitch gameplay. It launched officially in public beta on June 6, 2011. Since then, Twitch has attracted more than 35 million unique visitors a month. Twitch had about 80 employees in June 2013, which increased to 100 by December 2013. The company was headquartered in San Francisco's Financial District.
Twitch has been supported by significant investments of venture capital, with US$15 million in 2012 (on top of US$7 million originally raised for Justin.tv), and US$20 million in 2013. Investors during three rounds of fund raising leading up to the end of 2013 included Draper Associates, Bessemer Venture Partners and Thrive Capital.:40 In addition to the influx of venture funding, it was believed in 2013 that the company had become profitable.:40
Especially since the shutdown of its direct competitor Own3d.tv in early 2013, Twitch has become the most popular e-sports streaming service by a large margin, leading some to conclude that the website has a "near monopoly on the market". Competing video services, such as YouTube and Dailymotion, began to increase the prominence of their gaming content to compete, but have had a much smaller impact so far. As of mid-2013, there were over 43 million viewers on Twitch monthly, with the average viewer watching an hour and a half a day. As of February 2014, Twitch is the fourth largest source of Internet traffic during peak times in the United States, behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. Twitch makes up 1.8% of total US Internet traffic during peak periods.
In late 2013, particularly due to increasing viewership, Twitch had issues with lag and low frame rates in Europe. Twitch has subsequently added new servers in the region. Also in order to address these problems, Twitch implemented a new video system shown to be more efficient than the previous system. Initially, the new video system was criticised by users because it caused a significant stream delay, interfering with broadcaster-viewer interaction. Twitch staff said that the increased delay was likely temporary and at the time, was an acceptable tradeoff for the decrease in buffering.
Growth, acquisition speculation
On February 10, 2014, Twitch's parent company Justin.tv, Inc. was renamed Twitch Interactive, reflecting the increased prominence of the service over Justin.tv as the company's main business. That same month, a stream known as Twitch Plays Pokémon, a crowdsourced attempt to play Pokémon Red using a system translating chat commands into game controls, went viral. By February 17, the channel reached over 6.5 million total views and averaged concurrent viewership between 60 and 70 thousand viewers with at least 10% participating. Vice President of Marketing Matthew DiPietro praised the stream as "one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends WAY beyond the original intent of the game creator. By merging a video game, live video and a participatory experience, the broadcaster has created an entertainment hybrid custom made for the Twitch community. This is a wonderful proof of concept that we hope to see more of in the future." Beginning with its 2014 edition, Twitch was made the official live streaming platform of the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
August 2014 changes
On August 5, 2014, the original Justin.tv site suddenly ceased operations, citing a need to focus resources entirely on Twitch. On August 6, 2014, Twitch introduced an updated archive system, with multi-platform access to highlights from past broadcasts by a channel, higher quality video, increased server backups, and a new Video Manager interface for managing past broadcasts and compiling "highlights" from broadcasts that can also be exported to YouTube. Due to technological limitations and resource requirements, the new system contained several regressions; the option to archive complete broadcasts on an indefinite basis ("save forever") was removed, meaning that they can only be retained for a maximum of 14 days, or 60 for partners and Turbo subscribers. While compiled highlights can be archived indefinitely, they were limited to two hours in length. Additionally, all on-demand videos became subject to acoustic fingerprinting using software provided by Audible Magic; if copyrighted music (particularly, songs played by users from outside of the game they are playing) is detected, the 30-minute portion of the video which contains the music will be muted. Live broadcasts are not subject to these filters.
The audio filtering system, along with the lack of communication surrounding the changes in general, proved to be controversial among users. In particular, users felt that the new filtering system was too inaccurate, flagged music played within games themselves, and voiced concerns that it could affect the service's ability to present footage from games which notably include large amounts of licensed music, such as the Grand Theft Auto series. The change also drew comparisons to the similar policies employed by YouTube—especially given the rumours surrounding Google's bid to purchase the service. In a Reddit AMA, co-founder Emmett Shear admitted that his staff had "screwed up" and should have provided advance warning of the changes, and promised that Twitch had "absolutely no intention" of implementing audio filtering on live broadcasts. On August 7, 2014, the 2-hour length limit on highlights was again removed, and an appeals process was added for flagged audio contained within on-demand recordings. In January 2015, to further rectify these issues, Twitch introduced a royalty-free music library featuring tracks from various independent labels cleared for use in streams.
Amazon subsidiary (2014–present)
On August 25, 2014, Amazon acquired Twitch Interactive for US$970 million. Sources reported that the rumoured Google deal had fallen through and allowed Amazon to make the bid, with Forbes reporting that Google had backed out of the deal due to potential antitrust concerns surrounding it and its existing ownership of YouTube. The acquisition closed on September 25, 2014. Take-Two Interactive, which owned a 2% stake at the time of the acquisition, made a windfall of $22 million.
Twitch is now operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com with Emmett Shear remaining as CEO. Shear touted the Amazon Web Services platform as an "attractive" aspect of the deal, and that Amazon had "built relationships with the big players in media", which could be used to the service's advantage—particularly in the realm of content licensing. The purchase of Twitch marked the third recent video gaming–oriented acquisition by Amazon, which had previously acquired the developers Reflexive Entertainment and Double Helix Games.
On December 9, 2014, Twitch announced it had acquired GoodGame Agency, an organisation that owns the eSports teams Evil Geniuses and Alliance. In March 2015, Twitch reset all user passwords and disabled all connections to external Twitter and YouTube accounts after the service reported that someone had gained "unauthorised access" to the user information of some Twitch users.
In June 2016, Twitch added a new feature known as "Cheering", a special form of emoticon purchased as a microtransaction using an in-site currency known as "Bits". Bits are bought using Amazon Payments, and cheers act as donations to the channel. Users also earn badges within a channel based on how much they have cheered.
On August 16, 2016, Twitch acquired Curse, Inc., an operator of online video gaming communities and gaming-oriented VoIP software. In December 2016, GoodGame Agency was divested by Amazon to their respective members due to conflict of interest concerns. On September 30, 2016, Twitch announced Twitch Prime, a service which provides premium features that are exclusive to users who have an active Amazon Prime subscription. This included advertising-free streaming, monthly offers of free add-on content ("Game Loot"), and game discounts.
In December 2016, Twitch announced a semi-automated chat moderation tool, which uses natural language processing and machine learning to set aside potentially unwanted content for human review. In February 2017, Twitch announced the Twitch Game Store, a digital distribution platform that would expose digital purchases of games within the site's browsing interface. When streaming games available on the store, partnered channels could display a referral link to purchase the game—receiving a 5% commission. Users also received a "Twitch Crate" on every purchase, which included Bits and a collection of random chat emotes.
Twitch and Blizzard Entertainment signed a two-year deal in June 2017 to make Twitch be the exclusive streaming broadcaster of select Blizzard eSports championship events, with viewers under Twitch Prime earning special rewards in various Blizzard games. Twitch also reached a deal in 2018 to be the streaming partner of the Overwatch League, with the site also offering an "All-Access Pass" with exclusive content, emotes, and in-game items for Overwatch.
In August 2017, Twitch announced it had acquired video indexing platform ClipMine.
On August 20, 2018, Twitch announced that it will no longer offer advertising-free access to the entire service to Amazon Prime subscribers, with this privilege requiring the separate "Twitch Turbo" subscription or an individual channel subscription. This privilege ended for new customers effective September 14, 2018, and for existing customers October 2018.
In October 2018, Twitch announced Amazon Blacksmith, a new extension allowing broadcasters to configure displays of products associated with their streams with Amazon affiliate links. On November 27, 2018, Twitch discontinued the Game Store service, citing that it did not generate as much additional revenue for partners as they hoped, and new revenue opportunities such as Amazon Blacksmith. Users retain access to their purchased games.
Content and audience
Twitch is designed to be a platform for content, including eSports sports tournaments, personal streams of individual players, and gaming-related talk shows. A number of channels do live speedrunning. The Twitch homepage currently displays games based on viewership. The typical viewer is male and aged between 18 and 34 years of age, although the site has also made attempts at pursuing other demographics, including women. As of June 2018 some of the most popular games streamed on Twitch are Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Hearthstone, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with a combined total of over 356 million hours watched.
Twitch has also made expansions into non-gaming content; such as in July 2013, the site streamed a performance of 'Fester's Feast' from San Diego Comic-Con, and on July 30, 2014, electronic dance music act Steve Aoki broadcast a live performance from a nightclub in Ibiza. In January 2015, Twitch introduced an official category for music streams, such as radio shows and music production activities, and in March 2015, announced that it would become the new official live streaming partner of the Ultra Music Festival, an electronic music festival in Miami.
On October 28, 2015, Twitch launched a second non-gaming category, "Creative", which is intended for streams showcasing the creation of artistic and creative works. To promote the launch, the service also streamed an eight-day marathon of Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting. In July 2016, Twitch launched "Social eating" as a beta; it was inspired by the Korean phenomenon of Muk-bang and Korean players having engaged in the practice as intermissions on their gaming streams.
In March 2017, Twitch added an "IRL" category, which is designed for content within Twitch guidelines that does not fall within any of the other established categories on the site (such as lifelogs).
In May 2017, Twitch did a livestream marathon of all the episodes of the PBS Kids show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. They repeated the marathon on March 20 of the following year to honor what would have been Fred Rogers' 90th Birthday.
Broadcasters on Twitch often host streams promoting and raising money towards charity. By 2013, the website has hosted events which, in total, raised over US$8 million in donations for charitable causes, such as Extra Life 2013. As of 2017 the website has raised over US$75 million in donations for charitable causes.
In December 2017, the National Basketball Association announced that it would stream NBA G League games on Twitch starting on December 15; the broadcasts also include interactive statistics overlays, as well as additional streams of the games with commentary by Twitch personalities. In April 2018, it was announced that Twitch would carry eleven National Football League Thursday Night Football games, as part of the league's renewed streaming deal with Amazon Prime Video. During the 2017 season, these streams were exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Twitch has also explicitly banned specific games from streaming, regardless of rating; this includes games such as BMX XXX, eroge visual novel games (such as Dramatical Murder), HuniePop, Rinse and Repeat, Second Life, and Yandere Simulator. The banning of Yandere Simulator was criticized by YandereDev, the developer of the game. He believed that the game was being arbitrarily singled out with no explanation, as Twitch has not banned other games with similarly excessive sexual or violent content such as Mortal Kombat X, Grand Theft Auto, or The Witcher 3.
Twitch.tv took temporary action in May 2019 after channels related to the video game Artifact began to be used for inappropriate content. Artifact, a major game by Valve Corporation, had lost most of its audience in only months from release, and by late May 2019, several popular livestreamers commented that the total viewship for Artifact streams had dropped to near zero. In the days that followed, several streams started to make streams purporting to be Artifact gameplay but in was trolling or other off-topic content. Initially these new streams were playing with the viewers or were jokes, such as showing animal videos or League of Legends matches. After a few days, others Artifact channel streams appeared containing content that was against the terms of Twitch's use policy, including full copyrighted movies, pornography, Nazi propaganda, and at least one stream that showed the entirety of the shooter's video from the Christchurch mosque shootings. The titles of such streams were usually presented to imply they were showing other content while waiting in queue for Artifact matches as to appear legitimate. As word of these steams in the Artifact section grew, Twitch took action, deleting the account that streamed the Christchurch shooting. Twitch then took steps to temporarily ban new accounts from streaming until they can resolve the issue. By June 2019, Twitch started taking legal actions against one hundred "John Doe" streamers in a California court, accusing them of trademark infringement, breach of contract, fraud, and unlawful use of the service that was harming and scaring away users of the service.
Twitch features a large number of emoticons called "emotes". There are emotes free for all users, emotes for Turbo users, emotes for Twitch Prime users, and emotes for users who are subscribed to Twitch partners or affiliates. As of October 2015,[update] Kappa was the most used emote on Twitch. Twitch partnered broadcasters unlock more "emote slots" as they gain more subscribers up to a maximum of 50 emotes per channel.
Partner and affiliate programs
Similar to the Partner Program of other video sites like YouTube, the Partner Program allows popular content producers to share in the advertisement revenue generated from their streams. Additionally, Twitch users can subscribe to partnered streamers' channels for US$4.99 a month, often granting the user access to unique emoticons, live chat privileges, and other various perks. Twitch retains US$2.49 of every US$4.99 channel subscription, with the remaining US$2.50 going directly to the partnered streamer. Although exceptions were made, Twitch previously required that prospective partners have an "average concurrent viewership of 500+", as well as a consistent streaming schedule of at least three days a week. However, since the launch of the 'Achievements' feature, there is a clearer "Path to Partnership" with trackable goals for concurrent viewership, duration and frequency of streams.
In April 2017, Twitch launched its "Affiliate Program" that allows smaller channels to generate revenue as well, also announcing that it would allow channels access to multi-priced subscription tiers. The participants of this program get some but not all of the benefits of the Twitch Partners. Streamers can make profit from cheering with Bits which are purchasable from Twitch directly. Affiliates are also able to access the Twitch Subscriptions feature, with all the same functionality that Partners have access to, alongside one subscribe emote. Affiliates are currently unable to receive revenue from ads, but Twitch has stated their plan to introduce this functionality in the future.
Advertising on the site has been handled by a number of partners. In 2011, Twitch had an exclusive deal with Future US. On April 17, 2012, Twitch announced a deal to give CBS Interactive the rights to exclusively sell advertising, promotions and sponsorships for the community. On June 5, 2013, Twitch announced the formation of the Twitch Media Group, a new in-house advertisement sales team which has taken over CBS Interactive's role of selling advertisements.
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has stated a desire to support a wide variety of platforms, stating that they wanted to be on "every platform where people watch video". Twitch streaming apps are available for mobile devices and video game consoles, including Android and iOS, as well as PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 video game consoles.
Users can stream to Twitch from PC, Mac, or Linux operating systems, either with stand-alone software like Open Broadcaster Software, through a platform like EA's Origin software, Ubisoft's Uplay, or Valve's Steam. Games such as Eve Online, PlanetSide 2 and the Call of Duty franchise now link directly to Twitch as well.:40 In 2013, Twitch released a software development kit to allow any developer to integrate Twitch streaming into their software.
Twitch Desktop App and CurseForge
The Twitch Desktop App replaced the Curse Client and Curse Launcher in 2017. It includes a dedicated browser for the Twitch website and additional functions inherited from the Curse software, such as mod installation and management for supported games via the CurseForge service, and voice chat. The software also serves as the client for the former Twitch Game Store.
TwitchCon is a fan convention devoted to Twitch and the culture of video game streaming. The inaugural event was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from September 25–26, 2015. Since its inception TwitchCon has been an annual event. The second TwitchCon was held in San Diego at the San Diego Convention Center from September 30 – October 2, 2016. The third annual TwitchCon was held in Long Beach at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center from October 20–22, 2017. The fourth annual TwitchCon was held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, from October 26–28, 2018.
As a teaching tool
Twitch is often used for video game tutorials; the nature of Twitch allows mass numbers of learners to interact with each other and the instructor in real time. Twitch is also used for software development learning, with communities of users streaming programming projects and talking through their work.
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