This Twitch Thing Is Going to Be Big -- In Fact, It Already Is

One thing that’s both fascinating and confusing about the Internet is the ability of each of us to create an online world entirely built of our own interests and desires, to the exclusion of other worlds that are equally vibrant.

So I won’t blame you for not getting the ramifications of the (mostly) confirmed news that Google is buying live-stream gaming service Twitch, which it will then run out of the YouTube division. I am not a gamer -- unless you count boring games of Spider Solitaire -- but I live with someone who is: our 16-year-old son. If his online habits are any indication, this deal is something that advertisers and agencies need to wake up to.

What Twitch does is make it easy for game players to live-stream their games from multiple platforms: PCs, xBox One and PlayStation 4. According to this story, its monthly active users stand at 50 million, with 1.1 million of those actually streaming every month. Twitch’s MAUs stood at 3.2 million only three years ago. That’s what’s commonly known as a growth story.

Now, you and I might find watching someone else play “League of Legends” to be about as dull as it gets, which gets back to my earlier comment about each of us creating our own online world; to the youth demographic, and particularly males, watching how other players play -- and seeing how they strategize their way out of situations --  is like catnip. They just can’t get enough of it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into my son’s room, tiptoed around the empty ginger ale cans, and found he’s on YouTube watching other people’s videos of online games being played. If you want a flavor for this world, here’s a sample YouTube channel to check out: it’s TheAngryHoneyBadger. The Badger offers how-tos, chats, and even what he calls “retro play-throughs of older games.” And people watch this stuff? Well, yes.

That YouTube channel has 116,000 subscribers, and another one that TAHB works on, called Curse, has over 300,000. And those aren’t particularly big numbers in the gamer universe. Machinima, one of the best-known gaming channels on YouTube, has 11.5 million subs to its main channel, and healthy subscriber bases to its subchannels as well.

It’s pretty obvious how potentially acquiring something like Twitch will increase YouTube’s already massive scale in gamer videos. But, while advertisers have, to some degree, taken notice, it’s certainly not to the extent one would hope, given not only the size, but the fanaticism, of the gaming audience.

There’s a lot to play with here, no pun intended, in targeting this audience -- but once again, while clicking around YouTube in researching this column, I saw ads from only one advertiser  Purina. There were multiple views of an ad for “Beggin’ Party Poppers,” a new treat for dogs that actually flings the treat in the air for you! Is it a coincidence that the commercial has over 520,000 views? I think not. Where other advertisers are, I have no idea.

As for my son, he’s long had the aspiration of having his own gamer YouTube channel. Maybe, if this Twitch acquisition happens, he’ll finally have an easy way to do it. As an advertiser, I’d take notice. As his mom, I’m not so sure that’s how I want him spending his time.

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