How Twitch and online streaming have revolutionized gaming as a newfound spectator sport


Over the next five years, the number of viewers of eSports will skyrocket. In 2016, there were more than 90 million unique viewers who watched the three biggest eSports tournaments. Revenue for eSports reached $1.8 billion in 2016, but a new study by Juniper Research forecasts that number will nearly double to $3.5 billion by 2021. This explosion will be due largely to the accessibility of online streaming platforms such as Twitch, which features a string of eSports and online gaming personalities.

The combination of online broadcasting and video gameplay has become a global phenomenon since Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of the Twitch streaming platform. It’s difficult for some people to get their head around, but many millennials now prefer watching other people play games than play the games themselves; it has become a form of theater to rival that of live sports.

Fans get a genuine sense of community when they can share in the experiences of their favorite gamers or players. For instance, viewers can get to watch some of the world’s top poker professionals, such as Daniel Negreanu and “ElkY” Grospellier play live in big online tournaments at the final stage, with tens of thousands of dollars at stake. Not only can viewers share in the pros’ excitement of potentially winning, they can also pick up a thing or two to improve their own gameplay. It’s the same with eSports professionals who can provide hints and tips to improve the gameplay of casual gamers and budding pros alike.

On the Twitch platform, users can watch live streams of their favorite video games and eSports professionals in action, as well as catch up on the archived footage. Although many gamers still use YouTube to upload their streams, Juniper Research believes that more than four-fifths (83 percent) of all eSports action was viewed on Twitch as opposed to Google’s social video platform. The videos appear more polished and designed to foster viewer engagement.

In 2017, one of the world’s most prestigious eSports tournaments, The International 2017, played on Dota2, some 824,000 Twitch viewers watched Team Liquid overcome Newbee to claim the first prize of almost $11 million. The number of viewers of The International 2015 was less at 556,000, so there has been around a 50 percent upturn in viewing figures within the last two years alone. Today, Twitch welcomes more than 100 million people to its platform each month to stream, watch and discuss the world of eSports. According to Twitch advertising, its daily active viewer base of 15 million spends 106 minutes per day watching live streams, with many of the leading broadcasters demonstrating their passion for gaming and inspiring ever-increasing fan bases.

Spectating has long been part of popular culture in the world of gaming. Even in the 80s, the amusement arcades would be crammed with teens to watch the best gamers do battle to achieve new high scores on games such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. As video gaming took hold in the 90s, both the U.S. and the U.K. had their own TV shows covering competitive video gaming, namely Starcade and GamesMaster. Twitch has taken advantage of the online revolution, giving gamers a simple portal to showcase their skills and others a platform to learn and watch their favorite games being played to the maximum. With augmented and virtual reality technologies becoming increasingly commonplace, it’s difficult to imagine eSports not incorporating AR and VR into their gaming environments in the years to come. This will almost certainly add a new layer of intrigue to the spectacle that is eSports.

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