Challenger to Watch 2019: Twitch
For putting the community first
It seems odd to suggest that 2019 will be Twitch’s year, purely because 2018 was so squarely its year too. The live video streaming platform seemed to be having a “moment”... one of those times when the stars all align.
The platform was originally conceived as “Justin.TV” in 2007, a tool to allow anyone to create their own live, 24 hour “tv station” (some of you will remember following the life of Justin Kan, an early internet star, as he went about his day). However Justin.TV soon found its major audience with gamers who outstripped all other users of the platform.
Gaming and live-streaming were a match made in heaven, with audiences tuning in to watch charismatic streamers take on their favourite games and challenges. In 2011, a separate gaming focussed brand, Twitch, was launched and quickly dwarfed Justin.TV, which shuttered in 2014 to allow a complete focus on Twitch, and the company was bought by Amazon in the same year.
2018 felt like the year that nearly everything went right for Twitch.
In 2017 and 2018, the “battle royale” genre of gaming exploded, now lead by that titan, Fortnite (which the execs at Netflix see as their biggest competitor). These games are perfect for streaming… they are reasonably short, highly replayable and have a mechanism that naturally builds tension and promotes genuine moments of euphoria in those playing them… all of this, it turns out, makes for great watching.
Also in 2018, Twitch found its biggest breakout star to date, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Ninja has over 13m subscribers on Twitch, and his daily streams of Fortnite average 55k live viewers. Ninja’s (mostly) family friendly image and his ability to engage with a large audience has made him as close to a household name as any gamer has ever been. You may have seen him in ads for Samsung or hanging out with Drake (playing Fortnite).
2018 was also the year that Twitch stole some ground on its biggest competitor, YouTube, which once again has had its approach to the streamer/creator community blasted for unfair monetisation practices and heavy-handed moderating. Casey Neistat, one of YouTube’s biggest stars, said “Twitch’s monetisation just feels so much more fair than YouTube’s”. In a fight for the world’s biggest streamers, Twitch has shown time and again that it puts the community first.
So, why feature it in 2019? Well, this could be the year that sees Twitch break into the mainstream conversation in the way that platforms like Instagram and Twitter have. As its existing audience gets older, and more and more stars are created, expect to hear more about things that have happened on Twitch in the rest of the media.
But also, there are signs that Twitch is ready to take on the bigger fights of our times. By focusing on the community, and improving the way in which the users of the platform can earn money from their actions, Twitch may just be showing other brands in the “gig economy” how it can be done. Can Twitch continue giving people the chance to make a living from the things they love? We’ll see in 2019.