Twitch was born as a place for people to watch video games online, but the Amazon-owned streaming service is now shifting its attention to other projects within and outside of the gaming world.
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At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, the company sought to reassure the crowd that it has the best interests of its die-hard community of fans and streamers at heart, even as it makes overtures to developers interested in using the platform to market their games and boost revenue.
At its core, Twitch's allure is a single concept that the company's Director of Integration Success, JT Gleason, refers to as the personal gamer identity. At GDC, he suggested that most streamers' identities are composed of the games they've played, their in-game achievements, and the Twitch communities they've joined.
For these streamers, Gleason said, showing off their gameplay on Twitch is yet another form of escape from the real world, much like the feeling they get when they're playing the actual game.
"For streamers that don't intend to make a living from streaming, they want an identity that's not really them," he said, a "pseudo-anonymous identity." There's also a much smaller—but infinitely more influential—category of streamers who have garnered such a following that they're able to make a living from their Twitch streams.
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"Streamers care about their brands on Twitch," Gleason said. "It powers their livelihood in several thousands of cases."
Twitch obviously wants to keep these two categories of streamers happy, since they represent the site's bread and butter. To that end, it has rolled out security features to weed out "name campers" (people impersonating popular streamers), as well as gimmicks like Drops, which reward users for watching content.
But the company also wants game studios to know that they, too, can make money from the immense popularity of video game streaming. So it is stepping up its monetization opportunities, including the upcoming ability to buy video games from indie and big-name studios directly from within Twitch streams. Naturally, both developers and streamers will take a cut of the profits.
"Twitch and game developers share a common interest, and that is for your game to grow," Gleason told developers at GDC. "There's a natural symbiosis that we want to enable and foster and support."
But it's not all about money. Like Facebook, Twitch offers users the ability to "friend" other users. The feature rolled out last year, and the company will soon let developers tap into friends list via APIs. The exact features haven't been announced yet, but Gleason showed off a few possibilities at GDC, fortunately none of which involve letting game studios send spam to people's friend lists.
If you're a game developer looking to take advantage of this new integration, you might do well to add a little Finnish and Aloha flair to your titles: the company says Finland is the friendliest country on Twitch, measured by the number of accepted friend requests, and Hawaii is the friendliest state.