In October of 2020, a game developer from Google Stadia touted how streamers should pay for a license to show live play on sites like Twitch and YouTube. As you can imagine, he caught a ton of flack from the community.
In reality, streamers are more important to the gaming industry than what this short-sided dev probably realizes.
I personally think that Mr Hutchinson is just upset because Stadia isn’t the powerhouse Google wanted it to be. But, that’s just an opinion.
The Economic Importance of Game Streamers
Now, I’m not saying that streamers hold the key to the economic growth of the gaming industry. However, they do play an important role among shoppers like myself.
After all, word-of-mouth is one of the most effective methods of marketing. And yes, this includes the impact of someone watching another person play a game on Twitch.
In fact, about 92% of consumers trust recommendations of friends and family over commercials. When it comes to the streamer, many people view him or her as closely as a friend or colleague.
Streamers are Better than Commercials
For one thing, trailers and commercials are often filled with acting and CGI movies that are not representative of the game. You don’t really get a feel for mechanics, visuals, storyline, or other elements that inspire a sale.
While watching streamers enjoy the game, consumers a tapped by “fear-of-missing-out,” or FOMO. Which is another highly effective form of advertising.
I bought most of the games in my Steam library simply because my favorite streamers looked like they were having a good time. This is how FOMO works, and it works exceptionally well in nearly every industry.
An Older Game Can Gain Instant Popularity
With the right audience, older games can easily see a resurgence of interest. This can inspire people to buy the game so they can feel like they are part of the streamer’s community.
Case in point, Among Us has been out since November of 2018. But, it gained massive popularity after July of 2020 because of streamers.
This goes to show how the right audience can boost the player base and sales from a few engaging videos.
Sure, it’ll eventually die down after FOMO has been subsided. But, that doesn’t take away how a game went from 850 peak players in April to 438,524 just four months later.
Many Businesses Rely on Streamers
Now, let’s set the game developers aside for a moment. A lot of businesses have cropped up and have become successful over the years thanks to game streamers.
Sites like Twitch are only just the platforms. What about Streamlabs, Stream Elements, and a slew of visual developers for overlays, logos, thumbnails, streaming software, webcam developers, headsets, and even TV manufacturers?
Go to any computer parts store and see if you can count how many devices are made for “streamers.”
There is a lot more money being thrown around than what the Stadia dev probably realizes. And curtailing who can stream because of a license will surely impact software and hardware sales in a variety of ways.
The Impact to Streamers if Licencing is Forced
I tend not to read review sites like Kotaku or Gamespot. This is because a large portion of their “journalists” write as though they haven’t even played the game or have some social warrior agenda.
Instead, I watch streamers to see how they interact with and play the game. I have a few who I watch that are similar to myself in terms of personality, so I am confident I might like something they do as well.
But, what would happen if streamers were forced to buy per-game streaming licenses?
Far Fewer Streams of the Games
First of all, Twitch would dry up overnight. That’s because a vast portion of streamers are people who have less than 5 concurrent viewers at any given time.
This means they’re not pulling in enough money to justify a license, depending on how much the licenses would cost.
And the micro-streamers who do buy a license would more than likely dump it after a while because it costs too much without a justifiable return.
Just because you stream on Twitch or YouTube, it doesn’t mean you’ll immediately replace a full-time income in the next year or so.
Anyway, fewer streams of the games would possibly translate to far less “realistic” exposure. Remember what I said about market trust. Commercials do not have the same impact.
Where would Among Us be today if it didn’t gain virtual overnight popularity?
Fewer Purchases from People Like Me
I’m one of those consumers who rarely trusts commercials, especially for a franchise I’ve never played. Instead, I will watch how my favorite streamers experience the game.
And I can say without a doubt that fewer streams would mean fewer purchases from me. In fact, I interact with a lot of people who state the same thing.
I’m not kidding when I say that most of my Steam library exists thanks to streamers. I’ve put in a ton of money on that platform for myself as well as my friends and family so they could play along.
Would I Buy Game Licensing to Stream?
Unfortunately, I do not make enough money to warrant buying a streaming license for all the different games I broadcast on the Twitch feed. Even if it were based on publisher or developer, I simply don’t bring in enough from Twitch or YouTube.
And I foresee something like this to become an exceptionally expensive hobby.
This is what happens when you have bills to pay, a mortgage, and children. The wallet gets a bit smaller as you march through adulthood.
And I can see a lot of new and smaller streamers having to give up the passion if they started getting hit with DMCA claims against gameplay.
But, I’m not entirely convinced the gaming industry would go to such measures. I would almost bet that a lot of AAA developers understand the power of live broadcasts of their games on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
That is, until someone shows hard evidence as to how these developers could make even more money by pushing a license agreement.
It’s Nearly a Symbiotic Relationship
Streamers buy the games to broadcast. This, in turn, helps them build an audience, which helps the broadcasters make money. Then, much of the audience goes out and buys the same game.
It’s a cycle where everyone wins, as long as the streamer is engaging and has an audience who wants to join the fun.
But in the end, I bet streamers contribute more to the gaming industry than Mr Hutchinson realizes. And I would love to see the data on a study concerning this aspect.
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