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February 6, 2020 9:02 AM   Subscribe

The mass Twitch exodus: Why streamers are leaving [Polygon] “A few years ago, if you were a streamer, you were on Twitch — simple as that. Outside of a few select content creators, everyone who wanted to be a streamer had to use Twitch’s platform. It was the only viable game in town. But over the last year, the streaming landscape has changed. Twitch still remains the largest streaming platform, but some of its biggest creators are signing exclusive contracts with platforms like Mixer, Caffeine, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming. Which leaves fans with a question: Why? The answer is a lot more complicated than you might think.”

• Top Streamers Are Leaving Twitch Amidst Big Money And Shady Deals [Kotaku]
“Streaming is big business now, and that means big money. But it also means that the world of streaming is transforming, and streamers are having to learn on the fly how to do more than just entertain. They’re having to strike deals with companies, agencies, and now entire platforms. Toward the end of last year, the deals grew bigger than ever, with blue-haired Fortnite megastar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins jumping ship from Twitch to Microsoft-owned streaming platform Mixer in a high-profile exclusivity deal that was soon followed by countless others. The business of video game streaming is rapidly evolving into something that echoes Hollywood, with agents and managers negotiating on behalf of streamers who are increasingly treated like actors or TV shows, and who wind up on platforms that stand in for more traditional networks. [...] These days, streamers make large portions of their money off brand deals, but viewership size is still key to making those deals. Many brands won’t touch streamers with small audiences—or, in the case of Mixer streamers, smaller potential audiences.”
• Twitch viewership dropped after it lost Ninja, Shroud, and other top streamers: But Mixer is still struggling to grow [The Verge]
“Total hours watched on Twitch fell steeply over the last three months, as several of the service’s top streamers signed lucrative deals to move to other platforms. According to the latest report from Streamlabs and Newzoo, total hours watched fell to 2.3 million during the final quarter of the year, down from 2.6 million the quarter before. The figure puts Twitch slightly lower than where it sat in the final quarter of 2018, despite a year of overall growth. The decline comes amid a talent war, which kicked off in August, that’s led to a number of high-profile streamers leaving Twitch. The platform’s biggest loss was Ninja, who went to Mixer, followed by Shroud, CouRage, and more. Those streamers all had millions of followers on Twitch. Their absence means fans are going elsewhere to watch them, and that Twitch may have a harder time directing curious viewers to streams that get them to stick around.”
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah shit I saw this coming and now I just wish I knew how to get some of the richer streamers in a room so I can pitch my idea of them cooperatizing as a worker-coop once their exclusivity deals run out. Could even pitch a preferred shares process so the initial owner-investors aren't coming out that much worse than if they stayed with their current agreements. The thing could be global.
posted by avalonian at 9:13 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Let me know if this is a derail, but good god could you imagine if you could get even half a million concurrent viewers accessing their favorite streamers on a platform that's collectively owned? Twitch is by and large a virtual cesspool of toxic masculinity and a breeding ground for alt-right recruitment (imo). So in addition to Bezos and these other venture capitalists not siphoning off resources from streamers like fucking parasites, you would have countless conversations between streamers and their viewers about what a co-op is, how is it they're an owner, and why it is they like it (if they do).

The streamer-owners would still most likely be looking out just (or mainly) for their own financial interests*, but if it's set up to outsource as little as possible, making designers and coders also member-owners (possibly with tiered equity levels - hopefully not), then now even more labor has voice in the process. Then, ultimately, you have a proof of concept that can scale for the myriad of other content creation platforms the bougie-parasites are cornering - or have cornered - the market on (e.g. youtube, instagram, etc).

Feel free to DM me if this is in any way related to your interests or profession.


*which, within global capitalism, means extracting value from the labor and resources you have no moral right to (imo)
posted by avalonian at 9:25 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


pitch my idea of them cooperatizing as a worker-coop once their exclusivity deals run out.

Would we consider streamers a part of the gig economy? I do. Like you, I've seen this coming from a long ways off, once these giant corporations get involved, it changed everything: Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, they wield such massive influence and it's all about lots of money $$$, clicks, viewers, and advertisements. The game is permanently rigged at this point. I haven't ever googled the terms "video game streaming" "unions" but I'm curious now.
posted by Fizz at 9:36 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I'm subscribing with Nebula at the moment which has far more content creator friendly revenue sharing policies. Even if I don't watch content on Nebula itself, I like supporting content creators on Youtube through it.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:36 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I know it's probably an overreaction on my part, but I have not yet gone back to Nebula after getting pretty pissed off at their bait and switch "free trial", in which they only tell you after making you create an account and getting your email contact details that you can't actually partake in the "free" trial without giving them a valid credit card number (which hopefully you will forget to later remove if you don't find the trial to your liking).

It's got various people on it who I already support directly via Patreon, and would love to see what else they're doing, but it felt so slimy when they demanded credit card info that late in the process that I've been completely turned off them as a result.
posted by tocts at 10:05 AM on February 6


Twitch and Mixer both offer partner programs that can help small streamers grow and gain access to more advanced features. But these partnerships with new and growing streamers do come with dangers for the sites themselves. Just recently, Mixer banned a streamer for a tweet saying, “Come watch a registered sex offender plays [sic] Fortnite with 10 year olds!” along with a link to his stream. - the Polygon article

ahhh, Gamer Culture
posted by egypturnash at 10:07 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Oh, look. Dudes. Naahhhhh.

Definitely a gender balance issue here.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:24 AM on February 6


I never thought that we would see creators going back to Youtube after all the crap they've pulled over the years. Really thought the platform had plateaued, especially for streaming. If money is the main issue here, Twitch really needs to start spending that Amazon money in order to retain streamers.

I don't see how Nebula is going to take off when you need to provide them with a credit card just to sign up.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:25 AM on February 6


Would we consider streamers a part of the gig economy? I do.

Yes! I do. Labor forced to be contractors* even though they literally perform the only "value added" function of the corporation making the corporation a defacto management company for an industry that exists only within the orbit of said corporation. These types of industries are ripe for cooperatizing because the value added by corporations is literally just the starting capital to scale and push out competitors. Any person with a car has 80-90% of what's needed to support their portion of the business plan (with the other 10-20% being data servers, coders who are hopefully also member-owners, etc). No need for Uncle Pennybags to be involved.

Uber and Favor/UberEats were the other two industries I often ponder how to start cooperatizing, but the (time to show my ignorance) magickry of what it takes for their app to work seems like a larger hurtle than the initial outlay for fully-online offerings.


*purpose being the externalization of costs and abuse of the discrepancy of horizons between individuals and corporations (i.e. people look at this year's costs, corporations look decades down the line).
posted by avalonian at 10:33 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Or would be ripe for cooperatizing if we existed in a reality where investors couldn't literally hold their breath (read: hold their capital) in one place until the people who haven't been exploiting for generations run out of money/time.
posted by avalonian at 10:35 AM on February 6


I only subscribe to 1 twitch streamer, Quill18, and I don't see him moving soon. He only has 180,000 followers and mainly streams Civ6 and Paradox games, so that may be a reason for him to stay on Twitch.
posted by Pendragon at 11:09 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I don't buy that Ninja went on vacation for 2 days and lost 40,000 subscribers. The only kind of Twitch sub that doesn't automatically renew is a Prime sub. Is he really pulling in almost $30 million a MONTH?

I don't doubt that streaming as a career is exhausting, but something doesn't add up here.
posted by Automocar at 11:13 AM on February 6


I suspect that he also has contracts with certain brands/companies, etc. He has his own line of clothing/shoes available at Wal-Mart. I've seen them in there.

They're not selling well. Lol. There are always like 40 additional quantities of every size for his stuff. And they're on the clearance rack, not a good sign. Remember fidget-spinners. That's what his brand feels like.
posted by Fizz at 11:23 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I don't buy that Ninja went on vacation for 2 days and lost 40,000 subscribers. The only kind of Twitch sub that doesn't automatically renew is a Prime sub.

Gifted subscriptions don't autorenew and are often given in multiples to viewers of popular streamers as an alternate form of donation.
posted by ODiV at 11:37 AM on February 6


The article underplays how low the viewer counts are on Facebook gaming and Mixer compared to Twitch.

Right now:
*Twitch Top 3 Games: All upwards of 100,000 viewers.
*Mixer Top 3 Games: All Under 6,000 viewers
*Facebook doesn't give numbers by game, but there top 3 streamer counts are under 5k. Still better off than Mixer on first glance.

Facebook and Microsoft are buying contracts with streamers for sure, but it's hard to be sure if it's really working yet.

In any case, I always feel like these articles miss the smaller tier streamers (mostly the ones I watch). The ones with a couple thousand subscribers on Twitch ($40k+/year ish). I think the success of this kind of streamer is very connected to the Amazon prime free sub, and I'm less sure it exists on Mixer or Facebook.
posted by malphigian at 11:44 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Gifted subscriptions don't autorenew and are often given in multiples to viewers of popular streamers as an alternate form of donation.

Ah, that's true, I had forgotten about gift subs. Still... I found something that said that his highest sub count ever was 269K. He probably just mixed up followers with subscribers. But it's a weird mix up because no Twitch streamer I know of would make that mistake.
posted by Automocar at 11:45 AM on February 6


Nah, that's basically real. What it takes to hit that level of sub drop is if you take a break one month after a big event, like, say, you played Fortnite with Drake and then took a vacation a month later. Totally possible that 40k prime subs come up for auto-renewal in that window. This actually happened across the platform for a long time, because early on a lot of prime subs were aligned with the product announcement date, so not being live on those days was a problem. (Also, Ninja's best moments were before Community Gifting really took off, which was H2 2018.)

I think lumping streaming in with uber/instacart/etc is a little facile. Two key things: (1) people who are providing delivery/transport services are fundamentally non-differentiated, and (2) a person doing creative production can be valuable to a very large number of people with no marginal cost. The most productive uber driver cannot be 100x more productive than the median driver. But in audience or dollar terms, that's definitely true on streaming platforms. That changes the labor dynamics significantly. I can imagine something more like SAG in this context, because that business has those same highly unequal dynamics. But at the same time, the long tail on Twitch is really long. There's no minimum wage that makes economic sense for anyone. Delivering live video to 0 viewers is not profitable, and there are millions of 0 viewer channels on Twitch on a daily basis. So the redistribution would need to be pretty serious. On some level, that's what the current rev share deals do; a bunch of the cut Twitch takes is spent on video network maintenance that subsidizes everyone else.
posted by heresiarch at 12:54 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I think lumping streaming in with uber/instacart/etc is a little facile. Two key things: (1) people who are providing delivery/transport services are fundamentally non-differentiated, and (2) a person doing creative production can be valuable to a very large number of people with no marginal cost.

Sure, but these are subsets based on a business model that comprises both, which is the distinction I was substantiating. They're certainly different industries, different product/service offerings, etc. My distinction primarily resides in how the operational activities (videos, food deliveries, streaming) link with the administrative (and - by proxy - equity) portion of the entity.
posted by avalonian at 1:09 PM on February 6


so I can pitch my idea of them cooperatizing as a worker-coop

So it's not a terrible idea, but building these platforms remains extremely capital-intensive. MSFT and FB are in this game, in part, because they have all this expensive infrastructure and they need to find ways to make money from it. You can definitely rent servers to do all this but then you're in the classic issue where the "landowners" just keep upping the rent until your business is only marginally viable.

To be fair these platforms, a dude like Ninja starts raking in big money with basically zero capital investment on his part. Is . it work? Absolutely. But there's no real barrier to entry and the only input is his own time and talent. Game streaming is really the ultimate postmodern middle-class job.
posted by GuyZero at 2:42 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


$30 million a MONTH

Why in the hell would you do it for more than one month? Hell, give me a week of that money hose and I'm done for the rest of my life.
posted by maxwelton at 6:57 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I’m addicted to watching Chess Grandmasters’ twitch streams. While it has created a new source of income for people who’ve always struggled to earn money from their profession; it is also kind of ridiculous how big twitch’s cut of the revenues are.
posted by interogative mood at 9:21 PM on February 6


I've always been vaguely interested in streaming - that's where a lot of video game culture is trending towards - but I can't watch streams without being repulsed. It's not the vile 'gamer' conduct - that can be avoided, with care - but the format. I get bored. What I hear is that people connect with the streamer, but for me it's always like trying to have a conversation with someone who's permanently distracted. Every time there's like a 5-minute pause because it's in real-time and not edited down to the highlights, or they stop playing so they can acknowledge donations, or they talk over cutscenes, or they stop talking because they're trying to remember where to go next, or the wind changes, it's excruciating.
posted by Merus at 10:06 PM on February 6


It's background watching for me, just something to put on while I'm also puttering around in the same game.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:35 AM on February 7


No love around here for the two-time?
posted by PenDevil at 3:52 AM on February 7


Do any of these streamers have close captioning? Do all of them fill a third of the game screen with their face?
posted by Beholder at 7:16 AM on February 7


So it's not a terrible idea, but building these platforms remains extremely capital-intensive.

For sure for sure. That's why I'm hoping for some kind of fortunate timing where these streamers that are raking in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars can then use that money to invest in some sort of cooperative enterprise. Akin to when Hollywood actors start producing and opening up their own film studios, but as co-operatives instead. It's a long-shot, sure, but it would only take a couple of the soon to be 8-9 digit wealth streamers.
posted by avalonian at 7:31 AM on February 7


Akin to when Hollywood actors start producing and opening up their own film studios, but as co-operatives instead.

But. there's just no incentives for anyone to do that. If a bunch of mid-tier streamers pooled money then they might have an incentive to change the ownership structure. But managing money is hard - there have been rich super-athletes forever but only recently have they become investors as well and most of them have boring albeit successful strategies of broad diversified investments. Doing stuff right is hard. Most wealthy streamers will be lucky not to die broke.

The best you're going to get is the next Elon Musk who pours everything from one success into the next self-managed startup, but that is about as far from a co-op s you can get.
posted by GuyZero at 12:04 PM on February 7


I feel like Twitch is like Reddit in terms of quality. Ya have to search for the gems and ignore all the rest. The majority of the people I follow in Twitch are women. Some not even gamers, but tech and other variety streams.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:26 PM on February 7


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