What is Twitch?

Twitch streaming and video games go hand in hand — giving millions of viewers and broadcasters a way to interact and share creative content with others. Streaming has exploded in popularity recently, with Twitch being the most used platform for video game broadcasts. But what is Twitch, exactly? And how does it work? In this guide, we’ll run down all you need to know about the platform.

What is Twitch?

Founded in 2011, Twitch is a platform for live video streaming, offering nearly anything you’d want to watch, from cooking, music, Q&A sessions, and — the leading driver of traffic — video games. It originally started as a spinoff division of Justin.tv, with gaming as the main priority. Twitch became so popular, it led to an entire rebrand of Justin.tv, which changed its name to Twitch Interactive in 2014. Then, later that year, Twitch Interactive was acquired by Amazon.

On average, Twitch gets more than 15 million daily active users, with over 3.8 million unique broadcasters in February 2020 alone.

How to access Twitch

Twitch is available on many platforms. You can visit the official Twitch website to watch streams, or use the app, which is available on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, and devices like Chromecast and Apple TV. If your device has access to the internet and supports apps, you can probably use it for Twitch.

Creating an account is free, whether you’re a streamer or viewer. You need an account in order to leave comments on streams, as well as to subscribe or follow other content creators.

Purpose of Twitch streams

Keeping up with all the latest video games can be expensive and time consuming. For this reason, many gamers will tune in to a Twitch stream to see if a game is right for them. Sometimes reading or watching a review isn’t enough — it’s best to see the game in action. That’s where Twitch comes in. Typically, streamers will have two video captures going at once: One of the game itself and one of the streamer. This gives each stream its own personality. You aren’t just watching the game, but the streamer, as well. Keep in mind, streams aren’t exclusive to gaming. Many popular musicians have turned to Twitch to make money during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the cancellation of all tours.

Some streamers acquire early access to an upcoming game and will partner with its publisher in exchange for advertising. If you see your favorite streamer playing an upcoming game you might have been on the fence about, watching the stream could help you make more of an informed decision to purchase.

After tuning in to see content you’re interested in, you might end up connecting with the streamer. Maybe they’re funny or have similar tastes to yours. It’s this connection that streamers (and viewers) need to keep the business going. Streams will typically be accompanied by a live chat, in which its viewers can communicate with the streamer and other people watching.

Affiliates and Partners

Popular Guitar Hero/Rock Band streamer Acai.

Many content creators are able to make a living on Twitch, through donations, subscriptions, and ads. You must become a Twitch Affiliate to make money through Twitch directly, which is earned by reaching a certain level of viewership, as well as other stats. There are different ways of generating revenue as a Twitch streamer, but if you want to do so through the platform itself, you’ll need to become an Affiliate.

To become a Twitch Affiliate, you need to earn the following:

  • 50 followers
  • 500 total minutes in broadcast time within the last 30 days
  • Seven unique broadcast days
  • Average of at least three concurrent viewers

Once these qualifications have been met, Twitch invites you to become Affiliate, which allows you to start making money through the platform. Affiliates can generate revenue in a few different ways: Ads, Bits, and subscriptions. For starters, as of 2019, those who have reached Affiliate status share ad revenue with Twitch. Ads play throughout the stream, with the content creator having the ability to choose the frequency at which they appear.

Another way to earn revenue as an Affiliate is with Bits. These are a form of virtual currency that allows viewers to cheer for the streamer. The current conversion rate is one cent per Bit. Think of this like a tip that comes with a special animated Cheer message that appears in the chat.

They can also earn money from the three subscription tiers: $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99 monthly, which is reportedly split 50/50 with Twitch. Subscribers make monthly payments to a streamer to show financial support, while gaining access to special emotes, badges, exclusive chats, and ad-free streams.

Twitch Partners are essentially a step up above Affiliates, with a few added perks. They receive the same benefits as Affiliates but also have access to a verified user badge, priority access to support team, access to opportunities like meet and greets, broadcast delay of up to 15 minutes, up to 50 emote slots, and a lot more. Those who have become Affiliate can then begin the Path to Partner, which requires you to:

  • Stream for 25 hours
  • Stream on 12 different days
  • Average of 75 viewers (concurrent viewership excluding hosts, raids, and embeds)

Once you’ve met these goals and have held them for 30 days, you can apply for Partner and are subject to approval from Twitch.

Twitch Prime Subscription

Promo from 2018 that offered in-game Fortnite goodies.

Users who want added bonuses can subscribe to Twitch Prime, a monthly subscription service that offers a variety of perks. Those who are Amazon Prime members get access to Twitch Prime for free after linking both accounts. Twitch Prime subscribers gain access to the following benefits:

  • One Twitch channel subscription
  • In-game content at no additional cost
  • Twitch Prime loot to gift to other Twitch members
  • Exclusive emotes
  • Additional chat colors
  • Exclusive chat badge
  • Save broadcasts for 60 days (instead of only 14 days)

You can also subscribe to Twitch Prime outside of Amazon Prime for just $11/month. Ad-free viewing no longer exists, but being a Prime member still gives you access to tons of content as both a viewer and a creator. Users subscribed to Twitch Prime has access to free games such as PUBG, Destiny 2, and Madden NFL 20.

“It’s a site for watching people play video games” is technically an apt description of Twitch, but the platform is way more complicated and useful than that. It offers a way for content creators to develop a following, make money, and discover new experiences. As an active social platform, Twitch brings individuals together across games, music, and creative content, redefining creative interactions and communities. 

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