In the battle for social media supremacy, different platforms have adopted different strategies. While the world’s largest networks (Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram), have worked to capture every conceivable demographic, others have targeted specific niches. Among the most successful of these specialized platforms is Twitch.tv, a streaming site and community dedicated to video game enthusiasts (gamers) and their content.
While Twitch may not be a household name for many, it’s no obscure upstart. Purchased by retail giant Amazon in 2014 and boasting 15 million daily active users, Twitch is armed with a loyal following and capable support system. With its focus on creators, Twitch is now abuzz across the creator community, attracting top talent from some of the world’s most popular platforms, including online video behemoth, YouTube.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the U.S. video game industry brought in $36 billion in revenue in 2017, with growth of hardware, software, and in-game purchases all up an average of 18% over the previous year. In another report, the ESA stated that “67% of American households own a device used to play video games.” Globally, the gaming market will reach more than $115 billion by the end of 2018. For networks like YouTube and Twitch, that make money off content produced by gamers, these numbers point to a lucrative future. In kind, platforms such as Facebook are promoting their own specialized gaming hubs to capture users within the segment.
Related Post: Top 10 Twitch Influencers Streaming Video Games
While YouTube made progress with gamers in 2017, pushing its streaming base up by a whopping 343%, it’s viewership was still less than half of Twitch’s by Q4. At the end of Q1 2018, Twitch’s viewership was up another 21%, while YouTube Gaming dropped 12% during the same period. Creating even more distance, Twitch’s concurrent streamers were up by 33% during that time, while YouTube’s gaming arm dropped by 13%.
In 2017, YouTube’s “Adpocalypse” affected many gamers, especially those whose content portrayed violent imagery. Earlier this year, YouTube made more headlines when it again changed its monetization policy, rolling out new ad restrictions for content and creators. Many small channels said they were being precluded from making money, while larger YouTubers complained about how the new rules were negatively affecting their bottom line. In a vlog on his channel, YouTube’s preeminent gamer, PewDiePie, claimed he was making more money on merchandise than ads:
“Honestly…legit…I am making more on selling these hats this month than I am making on ad revenue, despite uploading daily content. Do you understand how bad ad revenue is? I might as well not even call myself a YouTuber. I’m a hat merch. I’m a hat salesman at this point. That is my profession.” – PewDiePie
With gamers having few monetization options on YouTube, many are finding more support on Twitch. If YouTube restricts creators from making money, creators will move to where they can generate consistent income — and fans will follow. With Twitch’s monumental growth coming at a time when YouTube is dealing with fallout from demonetization, these two phenomena might be connected.
Twitch gives creators various ways to monetize content through their affiliate and partner programs:
How To Join Twitch’s Affiliate Program
Joining Twitch’s Affiliate Program entails the following requirements:
For those gamers that qualify to join Twitch’s affiliate program, the following monetization options are available:
How To Join Twitch’s Partner Program
Twitch’s Partner Program is a more exclusive club, where extra monetization options are unlocked for key creators. The requirements for invitation into the program are a bit ambiguous, and Partners appear to be handpicked by Twitch brass to include the most popular and powerful gaming influencers on the platform. Broadcasters can apply through Twitch’s site, which explains that Twitch partners with creators “who engage their chat, develop strong communities, and find creative ways to stand out from the crowd” through original content.
Approved influencers are granted the added bonus of monetizing their content through mid-roll advertisements, in which they receive a portion of the revenue generated. Moreover, Twitch Partners are given control over the length and frequency of the advertisements served against their content.
With the growing ranks of over 27,000 Partners and 150,000 Affiliates, Twitch’s monetization options seem to be working for creators.
Related Post: How Do Mobile Games Monetize?
Neistat isn’t the only YouTube celebrity on Twitch. Aforementioned, PewDiePie has over 900,000 followers on the network, with many of his videos clocking several million views.
Logan Paul’s 817,000 followers on the gaming platform may pale in comparison to his more than 17 million subscribers on YouTube, but the fact that such a massive star is looking to broadcast elsewhere should be concerning to YouTube. Other YouTubers, such as Ashens, CaptainSparklez, and HarleyPlays also have channels on Twitch.
Earlier this year, Disney Digital Network signed a deal to bring some of their biggest gaming names, including Jacksepticeye, LuzuGames, Markiplier, and Strawburry17, to Twitch. Like Neistat, PewDiePie, and Paul, many of these creators produce more general interest videos — like vlogs, cosplay, and sketches — indicating Twitch’s openness to expanding their content offerings as well. When comparing Twitch vs. YouTube Gaming, Twitch.tv’s embrace of non-gaming video content makes them a serious contender.
In January, League of Legends player Tyler1 had a record-breaking return to Twitch when he held 386,000 concurrent streamers on the platform. A month later, Dr. DisRespect bested that number by 2,000, for a total of 388,000 simultaneous livestream viewers.
As impressive as those numbers are, they would be quickly obliterated that March when top gamer Ninja and Grammy Award-winner Drake played Fortnite together on Ninja’s Twitch channel. The two pop culture celebrities were joined by entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, singer-songwriter Travis Scott, and NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster, culminating in a livestream that captured 628,000 viewers.
Numbers like these are huge opportunities for brands looking to connect with a targeted, active, and engaged audience. Mediakix’s own report reveals how brands are utilizing Twitch influencers to reach preferred audiences— KFC, Electronic Arts, and South Park have all partnered with Twitch influencers and successfully driven traffic and purchases.
Related Post: Case Study: Advertising On YouTube Gaming Channels
At VidCon 2018, YouTube announced new monetization opportunities for creators, including Channel Memberships, Merchandise Sales, and Premieres. The Channel Memberships in particular, which offer fans certain channel perks for $4.99 a month, is similar to the Subscriptions plan offered by Twitch.
While the new revenue streams are meant to quell complaints from creators over YouTube’s various “Adpocalypse” controversies, it remains to be seen whether it will keep creators from jumping to Twitch.
YouTube Gaming made impressive gains in 2017. Still, the service hasn’t been able to catch up with Twitch so far this year. One indicator worth watching is, that while top gamers are moving from YouTube to Twitch, the opposite doesn’t seem to be happening.
YouTube has the audience, platform, and resources to swing the momentum back in their direction. However, if creators trying to make a living have reached an end to their patience with YouTube, the numbers could skew even further in Twitch’s favor.
With Twitch’s growing popularity and YouTube’s new appeal to creators, we’ll keep an eye on the latest numbers from each company to see which platform will come out on top with gamers and top creators.