What is Twitch?

I’ve mentioned it in passing when I wrote about AGDQ and that it was currently streaming old episodes of Dr. Who, but what is it, some may ask.

In a nutshell Twitch.tv is a live-streaming platform who’s focus is primarily, but not exclusively, video games.

It started life as Justin.tv. One guy, Justin Kan, broadcasting his daily life 24/7 on the internet via a webcam on a baseball cap, attached to a laptop in a backpack. It wasn’t long before he converted his single person site into a platform to allow other people to do the same thing. It was divided up into categories like Sports, Music, People & Lifecasting, Entertainment, that kind of thing. It never really took off in a big way. The few standouts often transitioned over to recording and editing videos and uploading them to YouTube. One category alone stood out and grew viewership day after day. Games.

Turns out people like to watch other people play games (as the zillions of dollars professional sports rakes in every year shows). More importantly, people like to talk to each other while they watch people play games and interact with the player. That’s an advantage that Twitch has over traditional broadcast mediums. Interactivity. Every Twitch broadcaster has their own dedicated chat window where the viewers can communicate with them and each other.

So what’s the attraction in watching people play video games, even if you can talk to them? It’s like giving a microphone to your favorite tennis player, golfer or quarterback and being able to chat with them while they practice. Listen to them strategize and explain why they did or did not make a play. Ask them questions and get advice. Most of the people watching play the game themselves, or have dropped in to see if the game is one they would like to try before spending their money.

Eventually the popularity of the games category eclipsed all of the others by such a large factor that the entire section was split off into its own dedicated service and re branded as Twitch.

If you’re wondering why people put themselves on camera in the first place, some want to show off their skills, others just like having people to chat with while they play and still more are looking to turn it into a career. Probably everyone has heard of “Ninja” by now and the money he’s made streaming Fortnite on Twitch. People who broadcast on Twitch can earn a portion of the advertising revenue earned during their stream, as well as subscriptions to their channel and donations from charitable viewers.

So, thinking of quitting your job to get paid to play video games? Good luck with that. It’s like being a YouTube star. You have to treat it like what it really is, an interactive talk show. You have to give people a reason to tune in, then give them a reason to stay and a reason to come back. You have to be entertaining, and that is WAY harder than most people realize.

The people who succeed at making a living doing this spend a lot of time both on and off “air” working on their channel. They spend long hours streaming to be on for the widest range of people possible, and when they are offline, they are planning their next show, editing highlight videos to upload to YouTube, playing in tournaments, working on their social media presence or working with sponsors.

Bottom line is, doing it for fun is great, trying to make it your main means of earning money takes a lot of work, dedication and sacrifice. For every one who is able to, there are thousands more who could not. Even Ninja, who is a millionaire now, spent a decade as a professional tournament player, going from Halo to H1Z1 to PUBG before the stars aligned and Fortnites meteoric rise in popularity made him known, even to people who’ve never once logged onto Twitch.

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