Twitch is the platform for all superlatives. Acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million, it has benefited since its launch from the first entrant bonus, dominating a live video broadcasting market that it created itself. Last year, nearly 10 billion hours of video were viewed there.
The comparison between Twitch and the other players in video streaming is irrefutable. In terms of market share, Twitch takes more than three quarters of the cake, according to figures from StreamElements (publisher of software used by streamers, the players who film themselves playing and broadcast their game live) and Arsenal, an analytics platform specialising in streaming :
Source: StreamElements / Arsenal – 3rd quarter 2019
A cake that in the third quarter of the current year accounted for some 3.38 billion hours viewed, broken down as follows:
Number of hours viewed worldwide in Q3 2019
Source: StreamElements / Arsenal – 3rd quarter 2019
Increasingly aggressive competitors, Mixer in the lead
Despite Twitch’s domination, the resistance is getting organized. In order to increase their number of users, the number of hours of videos viewed and the number of channels, two platforms have been particularly aggressive in recent months: Mixer and YouTube Gaming.
Mix, first of all. The company, created in early 2016, was bought by Microsoft only eight months after its launch. Directly integrated into Windows 10 and Xbox One, it offers, just like Twitch, many features allowing interactivity between streamers and viewers (spectators). It also allows viewers, thanks to the MixPlay feature, to intervene in certain games, either by helping the streamer or making it more complicated.
At the beginning of August, Mixer achieved what seemed impossible until then: attracting Twitch’s biggest streamer, Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, followed by 14 million subscribers and Fortnite game expert. Three months later, it was another bigwig from Twitch who gave in to Microsoft’s sirens: Michael Grzesiek, alias Shroud, rich of 7 million followers and specialist of the game Counter-Strike : Global Offensive. And at the beginning of November, a third defector, Cory Michael, alias King Gothalion, with a million subscribers, also announced the signing of an exclusive contract with Mixer.
Streamer Marketplace: YouTube active, Facebook absent
YouTube, which tried to create a platform dedicated to gaming (YouTube Gaming) as early as 2015, only to finally abandon the project in May 2019, did not stay with its arms outstretched. Google’s subsidiary has participated in the streamer market by migrating two other Fortnite game experts from Twitch: Jack Dunlop, aka CouRage, followed by 2 million users, and the Australian Lachlan Power, aka Lachlan, with a million followers.
For its part, Facebook remains very discreet, working instead to develop its Facebook Gaming platform, which was launched a year earlier and which totaled 124 million hours viewed worldwide in the third quarter of 2019, according to figures from StreamElements / Arsenal.
What long-term strategy for Mixer?
This trench warfare has had a positive effect on Mixer. The arrival of Ninja in early August brought an unprecedented spotlight on the platform. The effects were immediate: a threefold increase in the number of hours streamed between Q2 and Q3 2019, from 11.3 to 32.6 million hours viewed live, as well as an explosion in the number of channels over the same period (3.92 million channels in Q3 versus 1.96 million in Q2), according to figures from Streamlabs (another software publisher used by streamers, acquired by Logitech last September) and Newzoo (a research firm specializing in games, e-sport and mobile).
These numbers mean that the arrival of Ninja has brought many streamers in its wake, that they have created one or more channels and streamed there. Nevertheless, overall, Ninja had no effect on the total number of hours viewed, which even fell by 10.6% in the third quarter compared to the previous quarter, again according to Streamlabs / Newzoo figures.
In debauching Ninja, Shroud and Gothalion, Mixer adopted a very violent strategy but it was the only one that was really visible. Results on hearings will not be immediate. Microsoft is in a logic of brand awereness rather than in a strategy of audience conquest. Making Mixer known to as many people as possible is important because, when the next Xboxes come out, they will include Mixer. It will then be important for players to know whatis all about,” says Romain Tixier, President of Lyon-based Esport Strategy but also founding partner of London-based Yokotu.
Ninja’s departure: what effects on Twitch’s performance?
Has Twitch been shaken by the successive departures of these star streamers? Figures for the 3rd quarter 2019 (July to September), which only take into account the departure of Ninja in early August, show on the contrary a 4.57% increase in hours viewed compared to the previous quarter, from 2.44 to 2.55 billion hours (Source: Streamlabs / Newzoo).
Twitch users, the ‘viewers’, have their own habits on the platform, their own subscriptions. With Amazon Prime they also benefit from Twitch Prime, which allows them to subscribe to their favourite streamer for free. It is therefore difficult to get them to leave shipovernight, adds Romain Tixier.
What about YouTube in all this?
YouTube also seems to be doing well in this knife fight. Offering historically less live and interactivity than its direct competitors, Google’s platform has so far positioned itself as the place to upload replays of lives recorded elsewhere. A few months before his departure to Mixer, Tyler Blevins (Ninja), for example, had – in addition to his 14 million subscribers on Twitch – nearly 22 million subscribers on YouTube.
In the live and gaming market, Twitch largely dominates YouTube Gaming. But if we change scale and look at the overall figures for VOD, the balance of power is reversed in favour of YouTube, in a ratio of 1 to 100. Even if it missed the launch of YouTube Gaming, YouTube is developing live for all its influencers, which will – at some point – have an impact ongaming, Romain Tixier analyses.
An opinion shared by Frédérick Gau, CEO of the Gozulting agency. Despite its quasi-monopoly situation in the VOD field, YouTube is not managing to establish itself in the gaming world at the moment. By poaching Twitch streamers, its strategy is built for the long term. A parallel can be drawn with the recent launch of Stadia. As soon as the use of cloud gaming is widely adopted, Google will put the necessary acceleration in place to take a sustainable position in this segment.