The rise of video game streaming makes Twitch a new Netflix
On May 7, more than 600,000 people from around the world peeked out on Twitch, Amazon’s broadcasting platform, to see the premiere of the video game. Resident Evil Village. Cesar Cagiao was one of them. This 18-year-old student had no money to buy the new Capcom company title, so instead of playing it, he opted to see how others did it. “It’s not the same, but it’s also fun. Especially if you see it on the channel of people like Auronplay ”, he assures from Marbella. Liam Green’s situation was different. This 34-year-old cook has money, but he doesn’t have time. “With two children it is difficult to devote as much attention to a game as I did before,” he explains from Liverpool. He also chose to watch it on the Twitch platform. “You can put it in the background while doing other things, it’s not as demanding as playing it in the first person. It is more like putting the radio on ”, he adds.
Video games are no longer just played, they look the same as a football game. The trend started years ago with esports. These multiplayer video game competitions have become a burgeoning business. According to the survey State of Gaming 2020 they are more popular than soccer with the 18-25 year old audience. “To be gamer you don’t have to play anymore ”, confirms Edgar Medina, country manager from Riot Games. “Just like to be a soccer fan, you don’t have to play soccer.” Riot is the creator of League of Legends (LoL), one of the great titles of electronic sports. When the game was released, things were very different. Twitch did not exist and audiovisual consumption was lower. Everything changed in 2011. “We did the first LoL World Cup event, at a fair in Sweden,” recalls Medina. “We didn’t have much structure: there were four tables, ten computers and“ ale, let’s play ”. Nothing suggested that this discreet event would change the way people consume video games. But he did.
People began to crowd at the entrance, forming queues. A few thousand went online to watch it live. In Riot they realized that there was a vein there and the numbers of the next two World Cups only confirmed this feeling. “We saw that this was going to go hand in hand with the dynamics of the game itself. We started to think that League didn’t just have to be enjoyable to play. We also had to achieve some audiovisual enjoyment ”. They made it. In 2018 the World Cups were watched by 100 million people. The success of this way of consuming video games (and the associated money in advertising, sponsorships and marketing) has made the model extend to more classic, single-player games. Games in which history has more weight. If esports are the new football, narrative video games want to be the new Netflix. And they are on the way to achieving it.
The trend has been consolidating for some time, but last year was a turning point. The pandemic locked the world at home, forcing people to consume leisure at a time that people were not used to. Faced with a television that endlessly repeated death figures, with paralyzed entertainment programs and closed cinemas, many sought consolation on other screens. Twitch, with a carousel of infinite games, with all kinds of games and people streaming them live, became a good alternative. Their numbers skyrocketed. Hours viewed on the platform increased by 67.36%, from 11 billion hours in 2019 to 18 billion in 2020 according to a study by Streamlabs y Stream Hatchet. Hours increased and business increased with them.
Twitch generated around 206 million euros in advertising revenue in 2018, according to a report leaked by the specialized media The Information. That number is likely to be significantly higher now, (the company expected to bill $ 820 million in 2020) but Amazon does not separate Twitch’s finances from the rest of its business. There’s no way to know. In any case, it seems like an interesting business. Twitch is the undisputed queen of game streaming with over 73% of the market, but big tech companies have started a race to steal the crown from it. Microsoft recently gave up, Facebook Gaming keeps trying, and only Google-owned YouTube Gaming holds up.
The figure of the ‘streamer’ and the social function
On May 7 an average of 200 streamers (broadcasters) simultaneously commented on their games of Resident Evil Village en Twitch. Lynx was one of them. “When a new game like this comes out we all do stream of the same ”, he confesses. “The first day is an open battle for attention.” Lynx, who prefers not to give his real name, has 270,000 followers on YouTube and close to 80,000 on Twitch. It broadcasts, mainly, games of narrative weight. He confirms that these have more and more followers, although he points out that, unlike electronic sports, they have a rather short life.
However broadcasting them can be more rewarding. And more complex. “Here it is not only the narrative of the game that follows. Also the emergent narrative that goes above, what the streamer. So there are several layers of narration that overlap ”. On May 7, people not only connected with Lynx to find out about the story of Resident Evil. She also did it to see how he reacted to it, to listen to him talk about the game and about his life. There is something meta-narrative in this way of consuming stories. But also, the expert points out, something social.
“Television is more passive. It is to sit and watch. You still turn on the phone to comment on it ”, he analyzes. This social factor is important to retain the viewer, it is something that both traditional channels and new platforms promote through hashtags and memes on social media. It makes the viewer feel that they are part of the conversation, that they want to consume a series until the end to avoid spoilers. “On Twitch you have all that integrated social content,” says Lynx. “You have the streamer, you have the chat and you have the game you want to see. That is why Telecinco cannot compete with Twitch, no matter how much it puts hashtags”.
On May 7, Antony Johnson took the day off. He was too nervous to work, so he spent the day doing other things. He tried to relax. It was complicated because Johnson is the screenwriter of Resident Evil Village and that day it was released.
This writer of novels, comics and games often connects to Twitch (except to see the games he writes, he is embarrassed). He is a great defender of the platform. “It seems like a new and fascinating way to enjoy games,” he explains via videoconference. The success of Resident Evil on Twitch he was not surprised. “Games like this, with an important narrative element, are easy to watch,” explains the writer. “But I don’t think it’s because they are written with this purpose in mind. I certainly don’t. “
Johnson is a consumer and fan of Twitch. He believes that it is a revolutionary technology for the sector, but ensures that the phenomenon it has created is not so new. “We have all seen our brothers or our children play video games. This is simply expanding this experience, making it online and global ”, he reflects. The writer also draws on tradition to explain the success of this new way of consuming video games. “We like to tell and listen to stories. And it doesn’t matter if you count them around a camp fire or in a hypertechnological video game. They are still stories ”.