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Video game live streaming levels up

Video game live streaming is now mainstream entertainment, and Hollywood wants in.
Illustration by Nick Little
  • The big idea

    Video game live streaming is now mainstream entertainment, and Hollywood wants in.

  • By the digits

    $200 billion: Annual global revenue of the video game industry

    $40 billion: Pre-pandemic annual ticket sales of the film industry

    ~50%: People between the ages of 13 and 39 who have watched other people play video games online

    50%: Twitch viewers who are watching English language streams

    165 million: Monthly active users on Chinese game streaming platform DouYu

    $20 million: Speculated amount gamers Shroud and Ninja were each offered in a deal to join Microsoft’s live streaming platform, Mixer, in 2019

  • Meet the platforms

    Twitch

    Founded in: 2011
    Owned by: Amazon
    Market share: 90%
    Claim to fame: Huge community—2.5 million people on the platform at any given time
    Big name streamers on this platform: Pokimane, AuronPlay, Shroud

    YouTube Gaming

    Founded in: 2015
    Owned by: Alphabet (Google’s parent company)
    Market share: 5.5% (though it increases to 23% if you include video on demand)
    Claim to fame: Video on demand—fans can watch the greatest hits from their favorite streamers without needing to tune into entire live broadcastsBig name streamers on this platform: Dr Disrespect, Valkyrae

    Facebook Gaming

    Founded in: 2018
    Owned by: Facebook
    Market share: 3%
    Claim to fame: Streamers’ accounts are tied to their real Facebook accounts
    Big name streamers on this platform: Disguised Toast, StoneMountain64

  • One big number

    ~33%: Gen Z consumers who watch content on Twitch at least once a week

    For young consumers roughly between the ages of eight and 25 who grew up on the internet, watching live streams can be as natural as older generations turning on the TV or flipping on the radio. These digital gaming spaces are where many of them feel the most comfortable throughout their day.

    “These creators provide kids a community that they can feel they belong to,” said Doron Nir, the CEO of StreamElements, a company that provides many popular streamers with on-screen graphics, overlays, and other features. “That is really powerful.”

    Read more here.

  • Quotable

    “We’re now thinking as much about what the viewing experience would be as the gameplay,”

    —David Tinson, chief marketing officer of video game company Electronic Arts

    Read more here.

  • The billion-dollar question

    Can anyone catch Twitch?

    Twitch is the undisputed king of the video game streaming world, and there’s no reason to think any of its competitors will dethrone it any time soon. Though none of Twitch’s features are so unique that a rival couldn’t copy them, its biggest strength is the connection that viewers form with streamers and each other in the chaotic comment sections of its videos. Those relationships have kept viewers on Twitch. Viewers’ loyalty to Twitch creates strong incentives for streamers to stay on the platform, too, because that’s where most of their potential audience and money-making opportunities are concentrated.

    Still, there are a few ways other platforms could shoulder in:

    • A hot new app pops up and snatches the “cool” mantle
    • Twitch’s moderation problem gets out of hand and drives streamers away
    • Trigger-happy antitrust regulators take Twitch to court

    Read more here.

  • Charting hours spent on game streaming platforms

    People are spending a growing number of hours watching other people play video games.

    Read more here.

  • Commonly held question

    When will streamers cross over to Hollywood?

    By some metrics, it’s already happening. Streamers are signing with big name management agencies like United Talent Agency and Creative Artists Agency. Ninja, who’s repped by CAA, appeared on the Fox reality singing show The Masked Singer (he was voted out in the first episode) and then landed a cameo as himself alongside A-list actor Ryan Reynolds in the action comedy Free Guy. Dr Disrespect, a YouTube streamer, is turning his persona into a TV series.

    So far, though, most streamers don’t have Hollywood ambitions. That may be because they’re already huge without having to crossover into TV or film. In fact movie stars are the ones trying to get into streaming.

    Read more here.

  • DIY: What it takes to be a great streamer

    In some ways, being a video game live streamer seems like the easiest kind of celebrity to become. After all, what could be more fun, and less taxing, than playing video games at home and chatting with friends online? But in fact being a professional streamer is deceptively difficult. They’ve got to be good at the game, but also keep an eye on the chat function, plus a running commentary that’s engaging for viewers. Here are a few of the qualities it takes to make it big in the world of video game streaming:

    🎮  Be good at video games
    🤝  Be accessible
    📅  Be consistent

    Read more here.

  • Keep reading

    The future of live-streaming, for better or worse, depends on Twitch. Twitch isn’t just popular with gamers—people are signing on just to chat. 

    Coronavirus-induced school and office closures have been great for Twitch streamers. The world shut down, but Twitch was more popular than ever. 

    Google Stadia is not the cloud gaming future we were promised. There’s money to be made in game streaming, to be sure, but not every new offering is going to strike gold. 

    Video game influencers are disrupting data capitalism and building new communities. Twitch and other forms of new media have created a world of entrepreneurial cultural producers who increasingly shape public opinion and mediate between consumers and the companies they patronize.