In the past couple of years, platforms like Twitch have exploded, with a range of high-profile gamers and streaming celebrities as well as actual celebrities taking part in what has become a new global phenomenon, But how has streaming become big enough to have the console industry rethink its approach? Why are so many people giving their money to watch other people play video games?
For the most part, high-profile gamers turned streamers are very good at whatever game they have chosen to play. A lot of people enjoy watching someone at the top of their game flex their digital muscles and efficiently and expertly play a game. It isn’t unlike paying to watch a professional sports team at your local stadium – which is what had also led the push for electronic sports ‘e-sports’ to be recognized as a bona fide sporting activity.
However, there is one way in which streaming is different to pro sports. You don’t even have to be good at games to be successful — although it certainly helps. Much like chat show hosts or podcast runners, streamers can have strong personalities, with humor, intelligent analysis, as well as skill – or lack thereof. Many personalities are exactly that, a person with a strong ability to captivate an audience and keep them entertained for hours whilst not necessarily doing well in a game.
The ability to watch someone do well in a game or struggle along the entire way can prove to be entertaining for a host of people. Professional sports stars have set up their own Twitch channels, playing on off days and using that time as a way to interact with their fans. By merging skill and audio-visual entertainment, streaming platforms like Twitch have found a sweet spot where people are willing to pay others in order to watch them play video games and talk over them.
The vast majority of streamers do it as a hobby, nothing more. It’s a way to share the games they love with an audience. If you can build up a fan following, though, it’s very possible to turn it into something that pays. Whilst that may seem odd, entertainers come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and Twitch’s rise as a streaming platform has shown that there is indeed a market there. More importantly, the rest of the world is also noticing. With certain streamers easily making a living off of their video game ability and companies realizing just how much of a following streaming has created, it has begun to become a mainstream activity.