Caffeine.tv is the latest entrant onto the video game livestreaming scene. This places it in the same market niche as Twitch, arguably the most dominant livestreaming video platform. Among the pack of contenders includes YouTube, which has battled back and forth with Twitch to command the gaming livestreaming space.
Caffeine has a clean, almost Spartan, interface. The lack of clutter on-site helps ensure that streaming is real-time, with no noticeable delay. However, users may find it unnerving to enter a channel on Caffeine intending to lurk, only for the streamer to give the viewer a personal welcoming sound-out call. Compared to Twitch, Caffeine shows signs of promise amongst the gaming community.
Caffeine only plays a small role in the livestreaming market at the moment, but it has plans to change that. 21st Century Fox believes in Caffeine’s potential, as they recently invested $100 million into the startup livestreamer. This is in addition to $46 million from existing investors. Twitch, on the other hand, was acquired by Amazon for $970 million in 2014 and has only grown since.
A look at Google Trends indicates Caffeine’s relatively nonexistent search interest compared to Twitch. By nature of being new to the scene, Caffeine.tv has entered the Google search bar far fewer times.
While Caffeine keeps its user numbers under wraps at the moment, the platform does receive just over one million monthly web visitors. The bulk of its users are gamers, probably less “hardcore” than those who spend their evenings watching Fortnite or League of Legends battles on Twitch, which gains an average of 15 million daily active users.
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Caffeine is still in its infancy. It began offering the essentials only and still lacks the polish of the more established Twitch. The platform makes it easy to set up a livestream. All users need are a webcam and a microphone. To begin broadcasting, users merely need to press the “Start broadcasting” link.
Things get more complicated if a user wants to stream while game-playing, however. In order to do so, users must download the Caffeine app. Then, users only have the option to play one of the supported games. While these factors seem limiting, Caffeine does regularly add new games. Right now it supports over 560 games.
Caffeine’s simplicity also happens to be its biggest drawback. Unlike Twitch, finding streamers on Caffeine.tv can be challenging. Without categories and only a basic search function, Caffeine’s features limit users in ways that could stall adoption.
There are also fewer marketing opportunities on Caffeine than on Twitch. Aside from Credits, more serious streamers don’t have ways to monetize their livestream gaming.
Perhaps the most serious flaw with Caffeine is the lack of an Android app. Users can currently only access Caffeine.tv streams on a computer or an iOS device, posing additional limits on the platform’s potential.
It’s no question that Caffeine considers Twitch its main competitor, as both offer livestreaming with a special attention to gamers. On top of that, the market for livestream gaming is surprisingly crowded. Although Twitch rules the roost, other streaming platforms include HitBox, Beam, Bigo Live, YouTube Gaming, Afreeca, Disco Melee, and Gosu Gamers.
Caffeine brings something new to the table though – it markets itself as offering social streaming with an emphasis on gaming, entertainment, and creative arts broadcasting. If this is the case, then it must have an eye on the big livestreaming players, including Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Instagram Live Video, and Periscope Watch Live.
Yet, 21st Century Fox sees the promise of Caffeine and doesn’t fear it will be subsumed by one of its larger rivals.
Caffeine’s founder, Ben Keighran, always had confidence that the platform would attract influencers. He claims, “Caffeine has a people-centric discovery and consumption experience. You get into the content based on who you follow.”
Keighran admits that the platform has initial plans of focusing on casual creators and rising stars. But more established gamers, such as Terry Crews and iJustine, now use Caffeine.tv, meaning its appeal to bigger names has already begun to catch on. For instance, actress, Tara Perry, streams there every Sunday with two distinct shows.
In addition, Caffeine recently announced the signing of four popular streamers: Ohmwrecker, Stella Chuu, IamKrisLondon, and Coco the Louder. Their Caffeine follower numbers are still well below Twitch levels, but their growing popularity shows signs of growth within the influencer realm.
Caffeine added an incentive for influencers earlier this year when they introduced a partnership program. Viewers can purchase animated 3D items to use in their favorite streams, and streamers receive Credits for each 3D icon used in their stream. Broadcasters can also turn their Credits into cash, closely resembling Twitch’s Bits system.
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Caffeine.tv is still in beta, and the logo on the site refers to it being in pre-release. The young streaming service is ideal for beginner streamers, having some technical requirements but not expecting its users to download any files first. This facilitates sharing live content and provides an excellent option for users who want to broadcast to a few real-world friends.
Caffeine is less suitable for streamers who want to broadcast their activities to the world. The platform lacks categories and has only limited search capabilities. Serious users still have to market themselves on another platform, promoting their Caffeine username to potential viewers.
If Caffeine remains game-focused, it will likely struggle to reach Twitch’s popularity – the top-level streamers there have little incentive to move their audience, as Caffeine does not yet offer a significant selling point over Twitch for gamers.
However, the 21st Century Fox investment offers a new dimension to the Caffeine.tv vs Twitch battle. The Walt Disney Company is expected to acquire 21st Century Fox in the foreseeable future. With the backing of Fox Sports, and potentially Disney as well, Caffeine.tv may yet become a driving force as a “social streaming” platform.