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Twitch: The Spectator Sport of Videogames

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Videogames have always had success in finding online viewers. The most highly subscribed Youtuber of all time and many highly successful Youtubers and channels have been dedicated to videogames, and for the most part the entertainment has simply been in the process of watching someone play a videogame while commentating. This culture, coupled with the leverage of livestream technology, has been the foundational basis for the success of Twitch.

In 2007, the predecessor of Twitch was launched as a general interest live streaming service called Justin.tv. Justin.tv first took off as simply the very popular lifecasting channel of its founder, Justin Kan. Now keep in mind, this was a time before vlogging even became a thing, and Youtube was still very much in its infancy. So this concept of a guy recording every moment of his life with a camera attached to his baseball cap was still very much a novelty, and like that fantasy “real world” in The Truman Show, the format caught on and gained great popularity. With seed funding from Y Cominator and an advisory board of some of Silicon Valley’s elites, Justin.tv expanded its capacities to become a platform that allows anyone to start a channel and create content to broadcast to potentially unlimited numbers of people.

As usership increased and the platform became innundated with channels by the tens of thousands, Justin.tv began organizing these grassroots channels into Categories. These categories ranged from News & Tech, to Music & Radio, to Sports, to Animals, to everything in between. But of all the categories, the one that grew the fastest by far was the Gaming category.

By 2011, Justin.tv spun off the Gaming Category as a separate company called Twitch, named after the videogame concept called “twitch gaming” where players of games like first person shooters are tested for their reflex and coordination. Within a period of the following 3 years, Twitch.tv had grown to be a platform for over 1.5 million broadcasters and 100 million monthly visitors, and in 2014 the company got acquired by Amazon for $970 million.

Of all genres of content produced in the events industry, perhaps the only genre comparable to the passion and excitement that videogames is able to elicit from fans is the genre of sports. Around the world and for as long as it has been available in human society, sports spectatorship has fueled unparalleled heights of event production due to the intense passion of fanbases unlike any other genre of events. Videogames, and digital gaming in general, have only been around for less than half a century in human society, but ever since its infancy it has gained an active and passionate fanbase that has enabled events ranging from global competitions to livestream platforms like Twitch.

There is I suppose a lot in common between sports and videogames that make them exciting events to watch. The generally fast pacing, the unrehearsed spontaneity of the outcomes, the testing of human limits in skills and abilities that seem both achievable and impossible. Whatever the reasons may be, I think Twitch and Youtube are only the beginnings, and videogames will become an increasingly important platform for live event productions that capitalize on its unique spectatorship aspects.

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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