Watching others play video games the next big thing
Watching others play video games the next big thing This frame grab taken from shows two gamers competing and a streaming chat, at right, as visitors to the online network watch the two gamers go head-to-head (AP photos)
Watching others play video games the next big thing
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Video games have been a spectator sport since teenagers crowded around arcade machines to watch friends play "Pac-Man." And for decades, kids have gathered in living rooms to marvel at how others master games like "Street Fighter II" and "Super Mario Bros."

But today there's Twitch, the online network that attracts millions of visitors. Most watch live and recorded footage of other people playing video games, in much the same way that football fans tune in to ESPN.

Twitch's 55 million monthly users viewed over 15 billion minutes of content on the service in July, making one of the world's biggest sources of Internet traffic. According to network services company Sandvine, Twitch generates more traffic in the U.S. than HBO Go, the streaming service that's home to popular shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "Girls."

Fans watch for the same reasons ancient Romans flocked to the Colosseum, to witness extraordinary displays of agility and skill.

Jacob Malinowski, a 16-year-old Twitch fan who lives outside of Milwaukee, admits that some may question the entertainment value of Twitch's content.

"(But) I think it's interesting because you get to watch someone who's probably better at the game than you are," he says. "You can see what they do and copy what they do and get better."

Amazon's commitment to purchase Twitch for nearly $1 billion this week is an acknowledgement that the service's loyal fan base and revenue streams from ads and channel subscriptions present enormous opportunity.

Most Twitch viewers are gamers themselves. They not only see the live and recorded video sessions as a way to sharpen their abilities, but also as a way to interact with star players in chatrooms or simply be entertained.

Sorah Devlin, a 31-year-old mother of two from Geneva, New York, says she watches Twitch with her 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter and enjoys it more than children's television programming. Their game of choice is "Minecraft," which lets players build or break things out of cubes and explore a blocky 3-D world around them. Devlin and her kids watch popular "Minecraft" players who go by names such as iBallisticSquid and SuperChache show their skills. The players, she says, have a sense of humor and are good at keeping the content "at most PG" so she is comfortable watching them with the kids.

Twitch fans are mostly male and between the ages of 18 and 49, an important demographic for advertisers. Nearly half of visitors spend 20 or more hours a week watching Twitch video, according to the company.

"You've got a hyper-growth platform with a niche audience," says Nathaniel Perez, global head of social media at advertising firm SapientNitro. "It's basically the best you can get, from an advertisers' perspective."

As a result, Twitch commands premium prices from advertisers. The company's cost per thousand views, or the amount an advertiser pays to run one video ad 1,000 times, is $16.84 in the U.S., according to video ad-buying software company TubeMogul. That's well above the average $9.11 per thousand advertisers typically pay for video ads placed on other sites.

Twitch can be lucrative for talented gamers, too. The site allows some gamers who set up channels what the company calls "broadcasters" to charge $5 monthly subscription fees to viewers. Plus Twitch gives a portion of all ad revenue to broadcasters.

Twitch didn't start out as a video game-focused company. The company, based in San Francisco, spun out of, a quirky service that revolved around a video feed tracking the daily activities of co-founder Justin Kan. The focus shifted to live video for gamers in 2011.

Brett Butz, 26, who works as a compliance officer outside of Boston, says he's spent $20 to $25 to watch content on Twitch, which is "more than I ever paid for YouTube," which also broadcasts games. While YouTube is popular with gamers, Butz says he prefers Twitch as a place to view games.

Amazon is promising to let its newest acquisition operate independently. But for some gamers, the deal brands Twitch with a corporate stamp.

"I'm curious to see if, in a year, it'll still have cache," says Patrick Markey, psychology professor at Villanova University who focuses on video games. "It's definitely considered a gamer platform but now that Amazon is buying it, is it becoming mainstream ... is it going to lose its coolness?"

Critical thinking challenge: Why does Amazon want to buy Twitch? What would Amazon do with it? How could Amazon make more money with Twitch?

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  • DBritney-Cas
    9/11/2014 - 06:16 p.m.

    It's cool to see other forms of entertainment that doesn't involve skill or a talent. Anyone can pick up a controller and entertain thousands, bringing a smile to their face. You don't need to be attractive or look the part, just got to play.

  • jacobpo-Mil
    9/12/2014 - 01:58 p.m.

    The article is basically saying that the next big things is watching people play video games on streaming sites like Twitch. Another things like that is Youtube though the focus is not just games on Youtube. Watching people play games is already a big things just look at someone like Pewdiepie. I personally prefer Youtube because the content creator can cut out all of the boring parts and I like the format better. I find watching people play games interesting because you can see people of different skills and watch how people react differently then someone else would. That's just my opinion, maybe other people like Twitch better or are not interested in game streaming at all. That's all I have to say.

  • JB2001Doge
    9/15/2014 - 08:40 a.m.

    Twitch is a good broadcasting site for gaming... But, they are now taking down videos for copyrighted music and themes (in a way) just like Youtube.Which I think that's really messed up to be deleting people post for copyrighted music....

  • pruettf4
    9/19/2014 - 12:56 p.m.

    Twitch is pretty fun to watch and i am very happy to see it grow!It deserves even more people to watch it because its more user friendly than youtube

  • jaimel01
    9/25/2014 - 12:44 p.m.

    I have installed this application for my xbox 360 . You nedd internet connection to have access to the live gameplays . Also , if you make an account you can let people spectate your gameplay . There is no limit to the game that you want to play .

  • jacobc-Koc
    10/04/2014 - 10:02 p.m.

    twitch and other streamings in general have been popular recently. also this is a really good way for the people streaming to make money. because people can donate to them.

  • GMauricio-Sti
    10/15/2014 - 02:31 p.m.

    I do have this app I think a lot of gamer people have this app. I think its really fun to watch other people play the game because maybe you can't buy the game and you can see other people play it.

  • Laurenl-Lam
    10/22/2014 - 01:36 p.m.

    I think that watching other people play video games has already been the big thing for a while. In fact, the most subscribed Youtube channel is owned my a man named Felix (also known as pewdiepie) and he only makes gaming videos. Also, band member Michael Clifford from 5 Seconds of Summer also makes gaming videos on twitch which draws thousands of viewers including myself to watch his videos. There is also many other gaming channels on Youtube who have up to 6 million subscribers. Even Youtubers who don't usually make gaming videos have been asked to make them. So in conclusion, watching people play video games was already a big thing.

  • Haley Patterson
    11/14/2014 - 01:33 p.m.

    I think this is pretty cool for the kids who aren't into sports. I know a lot of kids out there that play a lot of video games and this could definitely spike their interest. I think it's cool how it actually got onto television and they have a lot of viewers.

  • 1EianS
    11/19/2014 - 12:18 p.m.

    I think it's kind of interesting that people will pay money to watch other people play video games, when you can go on YouTube and watch them for free. It's also interesting that amazon purchased it for 1 billion dollars.

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