Twitch brings gaming communities into others’ homes

There was a time when the only way to watch someone play a video game was to be in the same location with them. The two-year-old live streaming service, Twitch, gives gamers a way to share their gameplay experiences with millions of viewers across PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and even mobile devices.

Every year, tournaments of all kinds are held for competitive video games like “Call of Duty,” “League of Legends,” “StarCraft II” and “Street Fighter.” Before there was YouTube, people could only share the incredible feats pulled off by the best gamers in the world at these tournaments by word of mouth. Because of Youtube, viewers simply needed to search for any number of gameplay videos. Now one can simply jump into someone’s channel and spend as much time as they want viewing the player’s game and interacting with them via chat.

Twitch brought in an estimated 45 million unique viewers a month in 2013. That’s an astounding number considering Hulu attracts 30 million users for its free service. In fact, in early February Twitch rounded up more traffic than Amazon and Facebook, according to a Washington Post graphic.

 

 

These kinds of numbers are a natural feed for live events. Last week, Capcom and Twitch partnered together to broadcast the first event on the Capcom Pro Tour, a “Super Street Fighter IV” tournament featuring 10 events around the U.S. and the world. These events give viewers access to tournaments like never before.

Every day games like “League of Legends,” “Hearthstone,” “Dota 2,” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts” are the most featured games with easily over 100,000 simultaneous viewers.

“Twitch Plays Pokémon” started out as a social experiment by an anonymous Australian programmer whose intent was to create a stream that would allow users to essentially play the game by typing in commands in the chat window. The crowd-sourced “Pokémon Red” experiment began on Feb. 12 and quickly went viral. The stream lasted over sixteen days and garnered over 36 million views with the highest traffic days receiving upwards of 70,000 concurrent viewers. It was the first large-scale participatory event of its kind and has spawned other “Twitch Play” clones.

Last Thursday, mobile gaming received its first ever game to feature live streaming: Gameloft’s “Asphalt 8: Airborne” on iOS. It is remarkable to think that streaming technology and popularity has increased to the point it has shifted to mobile devices.

I’m a recent convert to live streaming on Twitch with the introduction of the PS4 app. Playing some of my PS4 games and giving viewers an opportunity to see new games is fun, but I came to appreciate Twitch with “Titanfall.” I’m sure watching me play the beginning of “Infamous Second Son” isn’t nearly as interesting as watching a faster paced multiplayer “Twitch” shooter game. There are so many unbelievable moments that occur in “Titanfall” from game to game. To be able to share those moments with viewers and interacting with them live is extremely gratifying.

If I’m lucky, I might get one or two viewers on my channel any time I live stream. I’m a long way away from the most popular channels that average hundreds of viewers at any given time. Yet there’s something mystical about the idea of bringing the gaming community into my home. If even one person takes the time to join in and share my, “Did you see that?” moments, it makes it all worth it.

Reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike