Jake Doran, Content Creative, London
What are you watching?
…uh, it’s called the International. It’s like a global tournament for Dota 2.
What’s DOTA 2?
It’s a bit like League of Legends. It’s a MOBA.
What’s a MOBA?
It stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
It’s a videogame.
Oh. You’re watching people play a video game? Why don’t you just play it?
You watch football on TV, right? When was the last time you played 90 minutes?
People watching people play video games. It’s huge and it’s not just limited to competitive tournaments. Just search YouTube for the term ‘Let’s Play’ and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of videos of people just… playing games.
With north of 100 million monthly users, Twitch.TV is one of the biggest live streaming portals in the world. So much so that it caught the eye of Amazon and was acquired by them in 2014 for $970 million. That may seem like a lot of money for videos of games, but when you consider that Twitch users watch an average of 100 minutes of content per day – that’s a lot of potential ad-watching, revenue generating eye-balls.
The winning way
So what has made Twitch so successful? Its appeal lies in the same factor that has made Kickstarter, Patreon and Bandcamp so successful – the democratisation of media. With Twitch, anyone can create their own live TV channel with the smallest possible budget. This level playing field has created a very real sense of community where anyone can get involved, bringing previously unheard voices to the table.
While it has an enormous user-base, the core of Twitch’s content creators is a group of 6,500 ‘Twitch Partners’. These are the streamers who get the big audiences and who can, in turn, collect revenue on the ads that they’re displaying. They’re the stars of Twitch and they’ve got the audiences and power to make or break new games on the market.
That’s the magic of Twitch as a marketing tool – if a big Twitch streamer plays a game for a few hours, broadcasting live to 6,000 people and enjoys it, it’s an incredibly convincing product demo. It’s authentic and super-targeted. Those 6,000 people may sound like a small audience, but that’s only the ones who are watching live – Twitch videos can be watched long after they’ve been first broadcast too. It’s also hitting a core audience. Those 6,000 people are the forum dwellers, the commenters on articles and the tweeters who form the groundswell of grass roots buzz for games.
Loosening your grip
So what can marketers learn from Twitch? When you’ve got a product that people are genuinely excited and passionate about, you may have to give up a bit of control to get the best results. Give your audience the tools and the environment to advocate for your product and they’ll do most of the hard work for you.