As gamers this week choose between the next-generation consoles Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, there’s one feature they won’t have to worry about: Twitch, which will be integrated into both. (It’s available on PS4 now and will launch on Xbox early next year.)
What exactly is Twitch? It’s a website (twitch.tv) and network that lets users show off skills in their favorite games, broadcasting live gameplay footage that fellow users can watch and comment on. Twitch is the primary hub for competitive gamers online, and allows obsessives of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto to interact with other gamers in real time. A staggering 45 million visitors a month tune in to live-streaming video of the 600,000 registered users broadcasting their gameplay. But up until now, actually getting on Twitch was a cumbersome process. “Broadcasting from the current-generation consoles is not easy, [but] we still have 600,000 people willing to jump those hurdles,” says Matthew DiPietro, Twitch’s VP of marketing. That’s about to change — and that 600,000 figure is about to get much larger — as Twitch will be a mere button-press away on both of the major new consoles.
Gaming has made Twitch what it is, but the massive video-streaming and social-sharing infrastructure the company has set up has created a wealth of other opportunities for online entertainment — the production company ReedPOP, for example, streams New York Comic-Con panels through Twitch. “We’ve gotten to a point where everybody has figured out how to leverage live video to meet their own needs,” says DiPietro. “Twitch is the central hub where that all happens.” In other words: Twitch built the sandbox, and now the next generation of console gamers are going to work on the castles.