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Online video is projected to surpass 80% of total global internet traffic by 2019 (Cisco). As social sharing and the ways people interact in the digital space evolves to keep up with this explosive trend, new platforms have developed “livestreaming” services which allow users to watch content (including live videos of fellow users) and interact with top users, gamers, and audiences in real-time. One of the most popular livestreaming platforms, Twitch, now hosts live videos from over 1.7 million “streamers” (the common name for the platform’s top users) and enjoys an audience of over 100 million active users/spectators. Like other social media channels and networking platforms, Twitch’s growth and popularity in the burgeoning livestreaming market have given rise to several top Twitch streamers that command the attention and engagement of millions of followers.
Twitch, which was founded in 2011 and later acquired by Amazon in August 2014 for $970 million (The Verge), was created as a platform for gaming and gaming-related content. According to the platform’s official website, Twitch “caters to the entire video game industry, including game developers, publishers, media outlets, events, casual content creators, and the entire e-sports scene” and features everything from livestreaming e-sports tournaments, streams of single players, speed-running videos (wherein a gamer tries to complete the game or reach a goal as fast as possible), and gaming-related talk shows (where spectators can weigh-in on discussions and interact with hosts in real time).
Though gaming remains the focal point of Twitch, the platform has recently attempted to diversify its content by offering a four-day non-stop livestream of Julia Child’s “The French Chef” (New York Times) for cooking enthusiasts and every episode of Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting” to commemorate the artist’s birthday—the latter attracted 5.6 million viewers (Entertainment Weekly).
In response to Twitch’s growing popularity—and possibly because their own deal to acquire the livestreaming platform fell through—YouTube launched its own livestreaming gaming platform, simply called YouTube Gaming, in 2015 (Wired). Before these developments, YouTube gamers could only upload videos of their gaming exploits but couldn’t directly interact with their millions-strong gaming audiences; now, top YouTube gamers like PewDiePie, VanossGaming, and KSI can engage with audiences in real time through some of the most popular types of YouTube gaming videos including Let’s Plays, walk-throughs, unboxing videos, and multiplayer tournaments.
Top Twitch streamers—or “broadcasters,” as Twitch refers to them officially—attract viewers that number in the thousands or millions. Brands eager to capitalizing on these large, engaged audiences can partner with top Twitch streamers for influencer marketing collaborations. According to Didgday’s Sahil Patel, sponsored broadcasts with the platform’s top gamers, sponsored gaming competitions, product placements and/or brand integrations at live events, and brand exposure on the “Hero Slot”—a continuous video that plays on Twitch’s homepage—present the best opportunities for brands to reach Twitch’s expansive audiences.
The expanding popularity of gaming lifestyle culture and the challenges many brands face when marketing to millennial and teen users also make Twitch an appealing platform for companies. As the Wall Street Journal’s Seth Stevenson points out:
“Much of what makes Twitch an important venue right now is the rise of gaming itself. Advertisers are latching onto gaming culture to remain relevant, and Twitch is one of the best places to reach teen boys who rarely watch traditional TV.”
The top Twitch streamers play a variety of games and each attract millions of users to every livestreaming event. Some of the most popular Twitch streamers on the platform include:
The first top Twitch streamer to reach 1 million subscribers (he did so while streaming a Call of Duty Zombies marathon) Syndicate is the most popular gamer on the channel with over 38 million channel views and 2.4 million followers. While many streamers offer statistics about what types of games they play, the systems they use, and personal information about themselves, Syndicate’s Twitch page is relatively austere, only offering links to other social media sites, a “tipjar” for users to donate, and a link to Syndicate’s merch store.
One of the most popular female gamers on both Twitch and also on YouTube Gaming, OMGitsfirefoxx has made a name for herself playing a wide variety of video games like Fallout, CSGO, H1Z1, The Sims 4, Halo, and Minecraft. The list of basic rules listed on OMGitsfirefoxx’s Twitch channel includes “just have fun, be random, be ridiculous and most of all BE NICE.”
Boasting nearly 20 million video views and 1.2 million followers, CaptainSparklez is another top YouTube gamer who has enjoyed crossover success on Twitch’s livestreaming platform. Like on YouTube, CaptainSparklez is known for playing Minecraft and various Minecraft Mods.
Nightblu3 is one of the top League of Legends players on both Twitch and YouTube. With 126 million video views and 1.2 million followers, this top Twitch streamer commands the attention of one of the platform’s largest audiences.
Known for playing first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike, PhantomL0rd’s 1.2 million followers makes him one of Twitch’s most watched gamers.