Since its launch in 2011, the site known as Twitch.tv has grown to become one of the largest online streaming platforms in the world; every day, it hosts thousands of content creators and millions of viewers around the clock. There’s little doubt anymore that this corner of the internet has become an industry unto itself, drawing in sponsors, advertising revenue and business deals regularly. Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of Twitch in 2014 only served to solidify this identity.
Twitch Rivals: Road to TwitchCon Europe rolls on with a @LeagueofLegends European showdown. Tune in today as All Star Teams representing 8 EU countries battle for $20,000 and 4 coveted spots in the Country Showdown at TwitchCon Europe: https://t.co/Gt4o2qJAsa pic.twitter.com/qd2q4xFVcf
— Twitch (@Twitch) April 3, 2019
But what is Twitch for? From MOBA games to casino games to the latest AAA release, fans come together on Twitch to watch games, to chat, and to build a sense of community – but also, to compete. Some of Twitch’s highest viewer counts come from international gaming tournaments with high prize pools, showing that high stakes always pull in viewers. However, it’s not just all MOBAs that have high stakes. There’s another side of Twitch rising in popularity lately: that of regular old bets and wagers.
Gambling with an Audience
Just what is it like to gamble with an audience, with a live, interactive fanbase, one that shares in your victories and wallows in your defeats? The poker and slots categories of Twitch garner tens of thousands of unique viewers each day – but of course, they do. As above, many of Twitch.tv’s most popular games are competitive – and what could be more competitive than classic high-stakes Hold ‘Em?
For the streamers and hosts of poker or jackpot slots on Twitch, their progress and skill are being beamed around the world for all to see, just like in a game like Overwatch or Counter-Strike. And their competition involves cash prizes too, in real time.
Many who watch these kinds of streams are there to learn as well as be entertained, with big names like Arlie Shaban running marathon poker shows that last for hours. These games are certainly niche within the wider context of the website, but what they lack in relative popularity, they make up for with passion. They are another testament to the fact that competition and high stakes bring in viewers.
Community site CasinoGrounds was founded by gambling streamers in 2016 as a hub for poker and slot gamers, as a place to share knowledge, make friends, and to discuss everything online casino related to the streaming world. From how-to’s on getting set up on Twitch to its forums and its recommended safe gaming sites, CasinoGrounds is just one part of this growing and vibrant corner of the streaming web. It’s a marker for the size and dedication of this community.
Two League Streamers, $10k On the Line
While gambling streaming has a large audience on Twitch, individual streamers are setting up their own bets and competitions based on mainstream AAA titles and MMOs.
Recently, fans of League of Legends streamer Yassuo and controversial counterpart Tyler1 got to experience this kind of dynamic first hand – the two personalities had a bet going between them to see who could climb higher on the MOBA game League of Legends’ ranked ladder, starting from a fresh account – the prize, $10k dollars. Certainly, the competition brought in hype, tension and more viewers than normal for both of them for its duration.
$10k is a relatively small amount, however, relative to other gaming prize pools. Titles like Dota 2 and Overwatch offer millions to victorious teams throughout the year; when the League of Legends world championship takes places, it often boasts viewer counts in the hundreds of millions. Competitive gaming is bigger and better than ever.
‘Streamers are their own public broadcast system… bringing community together’
Net worth estimates of the global gaming industry reached as high as $134 billion in 2018. Of that figure, over half was credited to mobile and tablet gaming. In some countries, remote gaming has seen over a 300% increase since 2014. It’s clear that with the rise and spread of internet access, as well as cheaper tech and more accessible games being available, that competitive games are only on the up and up, from League to Counter Strike to Hold ’em. Mobile gaming is an especially big part of this trend, with many sites and app developers creating UI specifically for smaller screens.
And, as games grow, so do the streaming communities around them. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear believes “streamers are their own public broadcast system… bringing community together”. He’s certainly not wrong. The crowd surrounding Tyler1 and Yassuo’s competition were all in it together. The hundreds of millions watching world tournaments are all spamming chat in sync. The followers of a particular cards player online are just as invested in a big win as the streamer themselves.
Without a doubt, Twitch’s viewing figures for their most competitive categories will only continue to rise in the coming months. The high stakes side of Twitch.tv is here to stay.