Ever since the site launched back in June 2011, Twitch has continued to transform video game culture as well as the world of live streaming. Six years later, Twitch is the chosen platform for over two million emerging content creators and receives upwards of 10 million visitors per day. However, the Amazon-owned site doesn’t just focus on traditional video games anymore, as over the last few years they have expanded their social video categories to include music, the creative arts, poker variants from online Texas Hold’em to live streams from Vegas and a number of other topics beyond console or PC gaming.
Initially, the idea behind Twitch was to create a brand new social network where members could bond over their mutual love of video games and other creative endeavors. Now, the site is so successful that popular content creators can make a living simply by live streaming gameplay to entertain their audience. Not only does the streamer have fun sharing their gaming experience with fellow enthusiasts, but fans also enjoy watching skilled, entertaining individuals, from poker pros to sculptors and musicians, focus on something they themselves enjoy.
Of course, as with all social networks, Twitch needed to adapt and evolve to stay relevant in a world where competition is inevitable. Early on in the company’s history, Twitch launched User Generated Programming, which included the typical casual gaming and speedrunning categories that Twitch is well known for, as well as Twitch Plays chat-driven gameplay. The latter gaming sector went viral in February 2014 after a crowdsourced attempt to play Pokémon Red on the site attracted over 6.5 million views in just five days.
After being acquired by Amazon for $790 million in late 2014, Twitch introduced a royalty-free music library, packed with 500 songs from various independent labels. This was big news for content creators and audiences alike, as it added an extra layer to the streaming experience. Still, the introduction of music was somewhat overshadowed by the big game changer of February 2015 when Twitch began live streaming poker games. Not only did this include players streaming their online games of Omaha, seven-card stud, Texas Hold’em and almost every other form of poker you can think of, but also live streams from land-based casinos such as The Bellagio in Vegas.
Although this may have seemed like a departure from Twitch’s usual console and PC-based streaming titles, iGaming and poker are incredibly popular online. In hindsight, fewer partnerships could have been better than that of the world’s leading game streaming site and one of the most successful online gaming industries in history. Before long, immensely famous poker professionals such as Jason Somerville and Jamie Staples were streaming live on Twitch and gaining huge audiences. There are now even Twitch streamers such as Parker ‘TonkaaaaP” Talbot who simply started streaming poker play online and has since managed to win $250,000 playing live and is an ambassador for 888poker. “There was no plan. I had watched video game streams for years, and thought why not give it a try,” Talbot told Lee Davy in an article for the company’s magazine.
Later that same year, Twitch rolled out yet another category named Creative where members could stream any number of artistic and creative works. After beginning with a Bob Ross painting marathon, this category is now home to a number of well-known artists who share their creative processes whether it be painting, sculpting, cosplay costume creation, cooking, composing or really anything else you can think of.
More recently, Twitch has introduced several other emerging content categories that are flourishing as we speak. These include IRL, a vlogging focused category, Social Eating where members dine together and Programmatic TV, which was inspired by the interactive nature of Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting marathon. There is also some personalisations that a Twitch streamer can use as well. They can have personal emote and free twitch overlays to make every stream different.
While Twitch is perhaps best known for its video game live streaming, the days of only watching Zelda speedruns is well behind us. After all, you can still find those sorts of things on YouTube so it didn’t really set Twitch apart. No, Twitch had to embrace new categories to keep their brand alive, garner content creators and keep audiences returning day after day. Not only was the addition of new categories like poker and the visual arts a fantastic idea, but it very well may be the change that keeps Twitch alive for many years to come.