SPONSORED FEATURE: TwitchTV - How to Build Community Around Your Game in 2012
February 6, 2012 Page 2 of 3
But... what are people actually watching?
One of the critical questions we have tried to understand is what gamers are spending their time watching and engaging with in video online, especially with live video. It turns out that they are watching a lot of different content. People broadcast PC games and console games; new releases and classics; multiplayer and single player. As I write this, the top five games are StarCraft II, Heroes of Newerth, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, and Minecraft.
There are four kinds of broadcasts that I think are most relevant to game developers: content around new games releases (especially developer driven content), charity events streams, professionally produced shows from gaming media companies, and eSports-related streams (primarily tournament and player streams).
Here’s a quick overview of each.
The gaming community has traditionally always rallied around new releases. This has been true in the streaming world as well. Many of the top personalities in gaming, each with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TwitchTV will broadcast new games the week they come out to millions of fans. Recently, we’ve seen games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Star Wars: The Old Republic get picked up by the community seemingly overnight on the day of launch.
In the past year we’ve also seen a lot of engagement from the game dev community itself. Several games, like THQ’s WWE 12 and Dawn of War have done live broadcasts leading up to launch, reaching hundreds of thousands of their most loyal fans. We’ve also seen developers reach their fans through other kinds of streams: live developer fan chats, play-throughs of early betas, or sometimes (like in the case of Notch of Minecraft fame) just live coding.
Gaming Media Shows
As gaming content has moved from articles and blog posts towards video, the traditional gaming media properties have followed suit and begun producing more video content to match consumer demand. This has happened with live video as well, with big gaming sites like GameSpot, IGN, Giant Bomb, Joystiq, 1Up, Destructoid and others producing live streaming coverage of new releases.
We’ve seen new media properties like Destructoid and Cross Counter TV take this to the next level by producing full fledged shows, having their gaming reporter personalities play games, take audience questions and interview guests, all with live broadcasts. Moving forward, I believe that those media properties that want to continue engaging in a way that speaks directly to their audiences will move more and more of their efforts to producing video, both live and on demand.
Finally, the biggest trend in online streaming has definitely been the phenomenal rise of eSports in the past year. The meteoric success of Starcraft 2 in the past 18 months is no secret. Blizzard spent a tremendous amount of effort making Starcraft an eSport, and it has paid off in viewership adoption of StarCraft II as a spectator sport, especially in the U.S. and Europe.
Historically, eSports have not been particularly successful in the West, but have been overwhelmingly successful in Korea. But things are changing. Starcraft was first released internationally by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998, and Koreans were quick to adopt StarCraft as a national pastime. Out of the 9.5 million copies of StarCraft sold, 4.5 million were sold to Koreans. The game is so popular that the best pro players and teams are sponsored by Korea’s biggest companies like Samsung and SK Telecom, and make millions of dollars a year in endorsements. Starcraft matches appear on two television stations, and are regulated by the government. Even the Korean Air Force has a team, so that the best players can still play while doing their military service.
The shift in the past 18 months in adoption for eSports is due to three factors: audience size, innovation in the viewing experience, and distribution. The audience is 170 million gamers strong in the US, playing more than 13 hours of video games a month. The innovations have been the spectator modes and ladder matching systems that companies like Blizzard or Riot Games have built into their games, making it easy for non-player viewers to follow the action. In the latest version of StarCraft, there are built in displays for production, army size and more, making viewing much more accessible to the casual fan, especially when combined with some basic commentating from a caster. The distribution is happening across sites like TwitchTV and YouTube, where a new generation of gamers is living.
Since last year the number and popularity of tournaments has skyrocketed, and all of them are broadcasting their content online through live streams. Major League Gaming, which was founded in the 2002, now runs 6 events a year, with over $1 million in tournament prizes awarded for the best players in Call of Duty, Halo, and StarCraft. With the audience growth for competitive gaming, MLG has attracted mainstream sponsors like Dr. Pepper and Sony-Ericksson. Other events, such as IGN’s new IGN Pro League, Europe’s ESL and Dreamhack, and the new North American Star League (NASL) have attracted tens of thousands of in person attendees and millions of viewers in the last year.
Outside of tournament streams, we’re also seeing many more players able to go full-time on gaming through income generated from streaming video content. Through revenue-share options from services like TwitchTV, Blip.tv and YouTube, pro players can make a 5 or 6 figure living just streaming their gameplay to their audience of viewers. This might not seem like much compared with professional athletes, but this is really the first year that making money from streaming gaming and eSports has been a viable career path; if growth continues the top players will soon be pulling down hundreds of thousands annually.
Many of the most influential gamers have also dedicated significant portions of their time to raising money for gaming charities like Child’s Play. One of the most prolific and positive kinds of gaming video being produced at the moment are charity streams, where one or more gaming personalities will get together and do a marathon broadcast, encouraging viewers to donate towards a goal. Think of this as the traditional marathon model of fundraising, except instead of watching a guy run for a mind-numbing 26 miles, the viewer is being entertained on an interactive stream with viewers chatting, auctions and giveaways, and your favorite games.
The number of charity events around gaming has grown with the size of the community. Speed Demos Archive threw an event called Awesome Games Done Quick last month that raised $145,000 for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, all from fans. Desertbus.org has thrown events around making the awesomely boring Desert Bus mini-game (where you drive a bus through the desert for 8 hours) fun, raising a total of $383,000 for Child’s Play. The numbers raised charitable causes from these kinds of events are stunning, especially when considering the stereotypes of the gaming audience. With streaming, gamers have been proving that the community is just as or more charitable than most.
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