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Twitch streams boost game sales, according to internal study

Game developers stand to benefit from the recent rise in live-streamed content, as a new study from Twitch data scientist Danny Hernandez finds that Twitch streaming can lead to a significant boost in game sales via Steam.

According to Hernandez’s findings, games like Punch Club and The Culling can trace up to 25 percent of their sales back to users who viewed live-streamed gameplay footage, and increased player retention was noted across multiple games featured on Twitch.

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Hernandez arrived at his conclusion after observing estimated PC game sales via the user-curated service Steam Spy. Looking specifically at Steam users with linked Twitch accounts, Hernandez was able to determine that many players purchased games after viewing gameplay streams across one or several recorded sessions.

“Within 6 weeks [of its initial release], 1.2 million viewers watched Punch Club on Twitch,” Hernandez explained. “The viewing experience was so compelling that 2.8 percent of Steam-connected viewers went on to buy the game. Given the assumption that Steam connected-viewers (0.53 percent of views) behave similarly to Twitch’s global viewership, I estimate 25 percent of Punch Club sales are directly attributable to Twitch.”

Punch Club was successful in terms of Twitch-driven sales thanks to its developer’s decision to launch a “Twitch Plays Punch Club” channel, Hernandez notes, and developers of games like Hearthstone and Squad can benefit from early access feedback from veteran players.

Celebrity streamers don’t necessarily drive the biggest sales spikes, either. According to Hernandez’s study, a large percentage of tracked game sales stem from “mid-tier” broadcasters, or Twitch users who average between 33 and 3,333 concurrent viewers.

“Mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters, and small broadcasters convert views into purchases 1,000 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters,” Hernandez states. “This is strong evidence that Twitch does more than just remind potential buyers that your game exists.”

The full results of the study, including graphs analyzing specific sales trends, are available on Twitch’s website.