A Look into Twitch’s Growing Appeal

Back in 2007, Justin.tv launched one of the first video game streaming platforms. The idea was simple: create a website where people could watch a gamer do their thing. Soon, the platform included chat features and, only four years later, spawned into the original Twitch.tv.

Within three years, Twitch became the one-stop shop for gamers who either wanted to showcase their own skills or build a following with like-minded players. By 2014, the project had ballooned worldwide and 16 billion minutes were watched per month across 11 million broadcasted videos.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon swept in to buy out the successful platform and helped catapult it to being a global leader in video streaming for gamers and more. YouTube attempted, and failed, a competitor model. Meanwhile, Twitch helped launch the modern eSports industry—and it remains one of the primary viewing grounds for professional gamers of all stripes. In 2022 alone, subscribers have watched over 751 billion minutes of live streams.

So, why has Twitch’s appeal continued to grow over time? Let’s take a closer look.

Developing a Skill

As mentioned above, the idea behind the original Justin.tv platform was to enable gamers to sit in on remote sessions from other players. Since then, subscribers (or subs) have gravitated toward the gamers who most suit their interests. One primary appeal is the ability to learn something new about a specific game, then see a pro in action.

This transcends video games. For example, poker has been closely tied to Twitch for the last decade. Before Twitch let streamers broadcast their skills, poker fans watched live poker broadcasts from groups like ESPN. Now, they can watch their favorite pro tackle multi-table tournaments, apply niche strategies, or simply cover one of their favorite topics related to poker, from hand rankings to all-time leaderboards.

In other words, Twitch can serve as a self-guided educational platform. It lets subscribers decide what interests them and which streamers best suit their style. Today, professionals in a variety of fields have pivoted toward Twitch in order to connect more easily with their followers. In fact, Twitch now includes an ‘educational’ channel category.

Building a Community

One element that has made Twitch popular is the ability to meet, chat, and follow like-minded gamers. In 2018, Twitch launched its ‘Just Chatting’ feature, which prioritizes open communication over game streaming. This streamlined the host’s connection with subscribers and between themselves—and it led to imaginative new ways to game.

For example, Erin Wayne (aka Aureylian), the Global Head of Player Community at Riot Games, first started streaming her Minecraft sessions a few years ago. The nature of streaming surprised her, as it was much more collaborative than she had thought it would be. Many times, a sub would offer her input during a live stream, telling her to go in a specific direction or that she had missed an item.

When seen in this way, Twitch isn’t just about letting streamers connect with subscribers. It also lets subscribers actively participate in the gaming session. Additionally, they can connect with one another, which means every channel has its own unique community.

Bridging Learning, Community, & Entertainment

So far, we’ve covered how Twitch can be used to develop a new skill and to build or find a like-minded community. These are two reasons that the platform has become so popular—but Twitch’s first goal was simply to entertain gamers who logged on to watch a live stream.

The true secret to Twitch’s ongoing success is its fusion of education, community, and entertainment. One study from two Finnish universities (University of Tampere and Aalto University) found that Twitch users felt motivated when they watched and engaged with their favorite streams and streamers.

The questionnaire-based study found that this sense of motivation was based on fostering a sense of curiosity and being able to connect with others socially. Additionally, the study mentioned that Twitch enabled users to release tension, such as stress. In other words, it makes people feel a sense of belonging, intrigue, and relaxation.