Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Twitch recently launched Twitch Sings, a karaoke game designed for live streaming. The game, which started in a beta test last year, lets players sing thousands of songs alone or in duets with other players.
Players can sing as themselves in a live camera feed or use animated avatars. Live viewers can request songs, use emotes to activate light shows and virtual ovations, or offer the singer goofy challenges like imitating a cat.
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Joel Wade, executive producer of Twitch Sings, claims that the platform "unites the fun and energy of being at a live show with the boundless creativity of streamers to make an amazing shared interactive performance."
However, Twitch Sings isn't really a fresh idea. It closely resembles Tencent Music's (NYSE: TME) WeSing, the social karaoke platform that generated most of the company's revenue last quarter. However, WeSing's success might bode well for Twitch, which has been seeking ways to expand its live streaming platform beyond its core market of video games.
Why Amazon is interested in karaoke
Amazon acquired Twitch for $1.1 billion in 2014, and it currently serves over 2.2 million content creators and 15 million unique daily visitors, who watch an average of 95 minutes of live games per day on its site.
Amazon doesn't disclose Twitch's revenue, but the platform makes money by selling ads, premium ad-free membership plans, partner fees from top broadcasters, and paid "cheers" from viewers. Amazon could also eventually integrate first-party games from Amazon Game Studios into Twitch's gaming streaming platform.
Twitch is the top live game streaming platform in America, but it's still tiny compared to Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) YouTube, which is trying to challenge Twitch in the gaming market with YouTube Gaming. Meanwhile, Twitch repeatedly tried to expand into YouTube's backyard with non-gaming video.
It launched a live vlogger platform, partnered with media companies to offer streams of classic shows from Bob Ross and Julia Child, produced a show about sneakers, and partnered with Disney to bring some of its online personalities to Twitch. However, none of those scattershot efforts helped Twitch gain much ground against YouTube.
That's probably why Twitch is introducing Twitch Sings as the platform's "first game" instead of another live video streaming feature. It also likely thinks the growth of Tencent Music's WeSing -- which boosted the company's social entertainment revenue 53% annually to 3.88 billion RMB ($580 million) last quarter -- bodes well for the platform's future.
Why Twitch's karaoke plans might not pan out
However, Twitch's plans might not pan out, for two simple reasons. First, karaoke isn't nearly as popular in the U.S. as it is in Asia, and none of the top music streaming platforms or social networks in America feature karaoke services.
Second, WeSing is tethered to Tencent Music, the most popular online streaming platform in China, and Tencent's WeChat, the top mobile messaging app in China. The combination of those two platforms, along with the popularity of karaoke and live streaming apps in China, made WeSing a hit app. Twitch lacks those strengths, and its core market of game broadcasters and watchers probably won't gravitate toward live karaoke concerts -- even if they're packaged as "games".
This isn't the first time Amazon tried to clone a Chinese app. Earlier this year it launched Amazon Live, a live streaming platform that let sellers run their own shopping channels. Live borrowed similar features from Alibaba's (NYSE: BABA) Taobao, Mogu, and other Chinese e-commerce apps.
However, Amazon Live hasn't gained much ground in the U.S. -- early adopters ran their streams like one-way conversations instead of interactive broadcasts like their Chinese counterparts. Forbes' Lauren Hallanan called Amazon Live "Alibaba's live-streaming without the good bits" -- and Twitch Sing could face similar unflattering comparisons with Tencent Music's WeSing.
The bottom line
Twitch Sings represents an interesting way to expand Twitch's ecosystem, which is already tethered to Amazon Prime via Twitch Prime. However, it also feels like Twitch is simply chasing a hot trend that might not be compatible with its core market. I'm not saying Twitch Sings will bomb right away, but I think it's more likely to burn out than take off.
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