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Something’s Twitching, by Socialize’s Peter Mazloumian

Socialize’s Peter Mazloumian examines the growth and potential of game-streaming platform Twitch.

For most gamers, the ritual of watching others play began at childhood, with many of us forced to observe from the sidelines while our controller-hogging siblings monopolised the household console.

Today, however, the broadcast of video games, among other categories, has become something of a social phenomenon, with more than 1.9 billion hours of Twitch content watched in December alone. To understand the incredible rise and success of Twitch, as well as how marketers, can tap into this network, we need to take a closer look at what glues people to screens and streams.

Since its reconception in 2011, when it rebranded from Justin.TV to Twitch.TV, Twitch has become a home for streamers, gamers and esports fanatics, giving an already engaged and passionate community a new way to showcase their skills, personalities and, for many, their brands. Once Twitch became a monetised platform, streamers were able to turn their lifelong passions into lucrative online careers, giving rise to many of the success stories we find on the platform today, and a new breed of influencer.

There’s no denying that Twitch has come a long way since its inception, but only in the last year has the platform skyrocketed to record-breaking heights. Roughly 7 million streamers went live every month, nearly twice as many as the prior year, serving upwards of 2 million viewers at any given time of day. But why the sudden rise in popularity?

For starters, Covid-19 made gamers out of most of us. With a newfound abundance of time, many of us dusted off those consoles we were too busy to play and rediscovered our love for video games. Recent studies show that 90.9 per cent of internet users in KSA play games (on any device), whilst gaming sales in America rose by almost 37 per cent in the span of only a year, with some mobile games recording upwards of a 50 per cent increase in profit compared with the year before. Grossly popular games became even more popular, while new, more obscure ones reached success overnight.

Needless to say, the value and reach that gaming is currently offering has attracted a lot of attention from brands trying to get their share of the limelight. Agencies have created specialised agency units (our own is SLZ Gamez) to offer expertise and guidance in the social gaming space, giving rise to the creative opportunities that are ever-emerging from the gaming category.

To get you started, here are our three rules of play when entering the world of Twitch:

RULE #1 – Read the room

The first thing that needs to be stressed is that gamers are not easily fooled. They are the protective underdogs of their community. For a brand to step into their territory, a certain ritual of passage needs to be considered. We are, after all, playing on their turf, so we need to be playing by their rules – respecting the sanctity of their space while offering more than self-serving product placements. We should rather use our time on Twitch to create a positive impact on the community.

RULE #2 – Not any ad will do

To resonate with gamers, it’s of the utmost importance that we think like gamers. Resizing a TVC and adapting it to suit one of Twitch’s many ad formats will never be enough to truly connect with this incredibly passionate community. The creative needs to be crafted with the spirit of gaming at its core, born from a fundamental truth that gamers can connect with, executed in a way that feels bespoke to the platform, as well as the community within.

RULE #3 Play like a streamer

The best campaigns that we have seen emerge from the Twitch platform are ones that leveraged the native tools of the platform to enrich the content of the streamers themselves: bringing a gaming character to life before their very eyes, ‘raiding’ the streams of smaller channels for a good cause or even just creating custom emotes that facilitate interactive discussion in the comments section. It’s of paramount importance that we remember this is a broadcasting platform above all else, allowing brands to enter the lives of gamers simply by playing alongside them.

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