Video Game Streaming Site Twitch Goes Mobile

Hopes to expand audience to include casual gamers

Jayson Love works a regular 40-hour a week job. From Monday through Friday, the creator of the Twitch channel ManVsGame logs on around midnight to settle into eight hours of livestreamed gaming.

The Billings, Mt. resident definitely isn’t in the top echelon of gamers. He crawls through games at a snail’s pace. But, thanks to his penchant for wanting to destroy everything and tendency to randomly burst into song, he’s one of the most entertaining gamers to watch online—and it’s looking like he’ll take home six figures this year, thanks to Twitch's partner program that allows people to monetize their streams.

“I had this dream of making a living playing video and chatting with people on the Internet,” Love said. “That was supposed to be in the reward in and of itself. It meant I didn’t have to go to some soul-sucking retail job. I wanted to make enough to get by and still be happy doing what I’m doing. I’m certainly getting by. I’ve never felt such financial freedom than I do now.”

Long thought of as a bastion for watching eSports, Twitch is quickly showing that it's not just another gaming site. The video platform has become one of the most popular sites for livestreaming video game-related content, whether it is a press conference to announce a new game or just someone who wants to show off his or her gameplay.

Twitch began as a spinoff site from Justin.TV in June 2011, with a focus on allowing the gaming community to broadcast its interests. Today, it’s currently available for many of the top platforms, including PCs, PS4 and, as of last week, Xbox One.

On Monday, it announced its first mobile gaming streaming partnership. Developer Gameloft will allow users to livestream Asphalt 8: Airborne experiences, tentatively starting on March 20. More mobile games and developers are expected to come on board in the near future.

It’s sure to be the start of a long and fruitful relationship between Twitch and the smartphone and tablet gaming industry, which is expected to reach $17.1 billion by the end of the year, according to Gartner, Inc. The entire video game industry as a whole is expected to top a whopping $101 billion in 2014.

Jonathan Simpson-Bint, chief revenue officer for Twitch, explained that the move to mobile will help the company reach a wider audience it has yet to tap into: the casual gamer.

“I think that’s a really big future for Twitch games to occupy a really important part in our culture,” he said. “Millennials are more likely to be playing a game than watching TV.”

Already, Twitch’s 45 million unique viewers per month see 106 minutes of livestreamed gaming per day. On his best day, Love noted he got 24,000 viewers to tune in.

“The thing that [you've] got to remember about Twitch [is] we need to be thought about with the likes of Facebook, Netflix and Hulu. Our cohorts aren’t IGN,” Simpson-Bint said. “They’re writing about the news: The news is actually happening on places like Twitch.”

Monthly, viewers see 400 to 500 million ad impressions. Most of them are video ads, and the site boasts a 90-plus percent ad completion rate. According to media mobile ad serving and analytics company Celtra Inc., the average site boasts a paltry not-quite 50 percent rate.

Part of the reason for Twitch’s success in getting viewers to not skip ads may have to do with the fact that the content is livestreamed and not on demand, Simpson-Bint suggested. Viewers are it for the long run.

It may also be due to the fact that video game culture has lent itself towards communal viewing. PR director Chase, who goes by his first name only, pointed out that in the industry’s infancy, people spent their time watching their friends play Atari at home or cheering the high scorer on at the arcade. 

“More people spent time watching people play than playing themselves. People have always been watching games, but it wasn’t until the ubiquity of broadband that we were able to watch games on a bigger scale,” he said.

It’s important to note that ManVsGame is one of Twitch’s best success stories. The site has over 1 million broadcasters per month, but only about 5,100 on them derive ad revenue through the Twitch partner program. Not everyone on the site has the ability to retire to a life of leisure and sore thumbs.

But, with mobile traffic Twitch’s fastest growing sector, there is a possibility that it could be poised to go from the streaming underground to becoming a household name for anyone who plays games.

“We envision a day where playing a game and broadcasting a game are the same thing, and (mobile game streaming) gets us closer to that,” Chase said.