Over the past decade, Twitch has turned live-streaming videogames from a niche pastime into a global phenomenon, making stars of its biggest personalities and giving millions of people access to a new form of entertainment outside of traditional broadcasting platforms.
With some signs of stagnation showing, how will Twitch evolve in the coming years and what trends will shape its trajectory?
One thing which will help Twitch to remain relevant and expand its reach in the face of attempted encroachment by rivals is the sheer variety of the esports content it offers.
From streamers speedrunning retro games to people playing games of chance on sites like Casumo casino, to the growing interest in chat-based streams which reflect on related issues, there are thousands of different niches catered to on the service.
The only limit is the imagination of the streamer and the willingness of an audience to watch their output, which could mean that the trends which come to define Twitch have yet to be invented. Of course, the most influential esports content is still based around the popularity of a handful of games, but even this can change regularly, with titles rising to prominence only to fall from grace.
For a time, Twitch seemed to exist in its own universe, acting as the only place for esports fans to see high profile events as they happened. However, the next phase of the platform’s story is likely to be counterpointed by the growing mainstream interest in esports and the competition that this invites from other media outlets.
While games like CS:GO and League of Legends have had a minor degree of crossover interest from outside the esports world, it is arguably the success of Fortnite amongst younger generations that have really helped esports to break through into the consciousness of the general public.
Established sports broadcasters like ESPN have begun to cover esports in earnest in the past couple of years, showing that there is clearly enough of an audience to justify this.
Whether Twitch will suffer as a result is unclear, although arguably it serves a very different purpose to traditional broadcasting platforms and so might even be able to benefit from the growing attention generated by potential competitors.
Bigger Prize Pots
The larger the viewership for a given event, the greater the value of the sponsorship deals and ad revenues associated with it. This is just as true in the world of esports as it is outside of it. In turn, this means that there is more money on the table to offer up to the victors.
We have already seen the prizes pools on offer for major esports tournaments grow from a few hundred thousand dollars to hundreds of millions. This trend will surely continue so long as there are people willing to watch in their droves.
Of course, there are a few unique features of these tournaments, in as much as they tend to be hosted by the game’s publishers, which changes the way that prize money is handled to a degree. Even so, with more money on the table, there is more at stake, which arguably makes the outcome of greater interest to audiences, in turn aiding viewership growth.
Twitch’s owner Amazon has helped to bolster the platform’s ability to provide a consistent, high-quality viewing experience to a wider audience. However, for the time being, it lacks the support for 4K resolutions that a growing number of its rival streaming services have introduced.
Hopefully, this is something that it will seek to address in the not too distant future since 4K is becoming a more common resolution for media consumption in the home, even if average gamers are still sticking to 1080p for their own play sessions due to hardware limitations.
Tech improvements are also set to shake things up for esports pros, with monitor refresh rate increases currently helping to push the envelope and act as the next defining factor in improving performance in competitive titles.
Graphics firm NVIDIA is in the process of pushing its first 360Hz capable monitors in tandem with manufacturing partners like ASUS. Giving players the competitive edge in this way may make the issue of standardisation more pressing in the esports ecosystem.