What Is Twitch?

For the last few years, Twitch has dominated the gaming landscape, as well as poking its head into the movie, TV show, and music doors. Twitch is an all-encompassing platform that divides opinion just as often as it unites people. It’s a cultural phenomenon, and if you’re a video gamer or someone who knows video gamers, it’s very hard to escape Twitch.

That doesn’t quite answer the most important question, though, which is this: what exactly is Twitch? You’ll have heard about it from various different people, and it’s been in the news more than once. Many news outlets don’t actually go into detail about what the service is and what it offers, though. Here’s a brief rundown on exactly what Twitch is and what kind of people tend to use it.

In essence, Twitch is an online streaming service. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube Live video, you’re pretty familiar with what Twitch does already. The focus on Twitch is much more on live streaming than it is on premade content. Users stream themselves playing games, playing music, or just generally chatting to their followers. That’s really all there is to the core Twitch model.

The service was originally founded back in 2011. It began life as an unassuming web service called Justin.tv, which streamed the lives of its creators. Eventually, the site was renamed to Twitch and the creators decided to allow users to stream their own videos on the service. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s a potted history of Twitch as we know it today.

The best way to get to know Twitch would, of course, be to watch it. You can do so over on the official Twitch website, but you’ll also find apps on pretty much every platform you can think of. There’s a PS4 app, an Xbox One app, an app for smartphones, Chromecast, Roku…if you can envision it, there’s likely to be a Twitch app you can download for it.

You don’t need any money to create a Twitch account, and watching streams is also completely free. Creating an account allows you to add your favourite channels to a “follow” list (which isn’t quite the same as a subscription) and also to chat using Twitch chatrooms. You won’t need to pay no matter what platform you’re using, so if you’re asked to pay for account creation or to watch a stream, be very careful.

You’re probably wondering how Twitch streamers make their money, given that the service is completely free for users. Well, the moneymaking model on Twitch combines a number of things. First and foremost, there’s advertising. Twitch streamers, like YouTubers, make some of their money via ads. There are also sponsorships, where certain brands will sponsor streamers.

Twitch’s subscription model also allows streamers to generate revenue. You can’t subscribe to a streamer on Twitch unless you cough up a little money. Subscriptions are exclusively paid, so subscribing is a way of showing your support to a Twitch streamer. Various streamers offer different bonuses to subscribers depending on what the content of their channel is.

It’s entirely possible to make a living via Twitch, although it is rather difficult. Twitch streamers need to know exactly who their niche is and how to cater for them. You won’t be able to start your Twitch career if all you’ve got is a camera and a game to play; you’ll need to establish an audience, market yourself, and have a little luck into the bargain. Still, some people can – and do – make a living from Twitch.

So, what’s the competition? Does Twitch hold a monopoly? The short answer is no. The aforementioned YouTube Live is Google’s answer to Twitch (the streaming service is currently owned by Amazon) and offers some of the same kind of content to viewers. The major point of competition for Twitch, though, is Microsoft’s Mixer. This service is specifically integrated into Xbox One consoles and Windows PCs.

There are various other small streaming services aiming to take a bite out of Twitch, but so far none of them have managed to unseat it from its throne, to mix metaphors. Twitch has become synonymous with live-streaming on the internet; it’s almost gaining traction as a verb in the same way Google did back in the early 2000s. Twitch is only going to get bigger as time goes on, it seems.

Finally, there’s Twitch Prime. This service is a premium membership that ties into Amazon’s Prime service. You’ll be able to enjoy Twitch ad-free if you’re a Twitch Prime member, and you’ll also get a free sub to use on any channel of your choice. There are also a number of free games that come with Twitch Prime each month, in addition to in-game bonuses for existing games.

It’s also worth mentioning TwitchCon. This event is held in early Autumn and aims to celebrate the achievements of Twitch Partners (super-popular Twitch streamers who partner with the service), as well as informing users about what’s coming next for Twitch. The con is often held in California and numbers are growing. This year, it’s in San Diego.

So that’s Twitch in a nutshell. The streaming service looks like it’s going from strength to strength, and it’s going to take a lot to slow the train down. There’s something appealing about the rawness and unedited nature of streaming that captivates people’s imaginations. Other services may come and go, but for the moment, Twitch reigns supreme.


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