Emotion is Attention: Twitch Invests in Experience

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The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. In 2015, humans clocked in at eight. Somewhere around the end of this sentence, statistically, we’re going to lose you.

Attention is harder than ever to keep, especially online where social media, streaming services, video games, and email or communications apps all contend for your time. And that’s to say nothing of the demands of unplugged life: work, school, errands, exercise. Despite heavy competition online and off, at Twitch, we’ve managed not only to keep users’ attention, but to emerge near the front of the pack when it comes to being “sticky” in terms of user engagement. Let’s talk a bit about why, but first, a brief introduction.

Twitch is a free live streaming service built primarily around video game viewing as entertainment. Thousands of creators use Twitch to stream themselves playing today’s biggest games, like Call of Duty, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. Viewers can easily find whatever else they’d like to watch too, from the aforementioned video games to cooking shows, painting sessions, musical performances, and more. And if viewers aren’t sure what they’d like to watch, we have discovery tools like our front-page carousel, game directory, and a proprietary recommendation engine, Pulse, to lead the way.

To put it simply: if someone wants to stream something, and if somebody else wants to watch it, you can probably find it on Twitch.

To put it simply: if someone wants to stream something, and if somebody else wants to watch it, you can probably find it on Twitch.

And all that content is finding eyes. A typical user watches 663 minutes of video on Twitch every month. That puts Twitch second only to Netflix, and firmly above Hulu, YouTube, and Facebook in this category. When we take user’s viewing patterns into account, this works out to 106 minutes per user spent daily on Twitch—not far below an average film’s runtime. That is a tremendous amount of time to remain on one site, both by human and goldfish standards.

What we’ve seen, and what we continue to double down on, is that emotion is attention. An emotional connection, a sense of belonging, compels people to get involved. To engage. To pay attention.

Streamers on Twitch inspire their users to be invested in the experience. Genuine friendships are forming between people all over the globe. It’s our job to help grow those connections by improving our chat experience, offering better and more ways for viewers to support streamers, and by partnering with developers to build excellent new products, like “Extensions” and “Drops.”

Chat and Support

Chat, which is essentially a live comments section, comes standard on every Twitch stream. It’s a way for viewers to share their thoughts, ask questions, and mingle with the streamer and other viewers. But it’s also a way to support your favorite streamers and to be recognized for doing so.

For example, if you find a streamer you enjoy, you can “subscribe” to their channel with a monthly recurring payment. Subscribers often receive special bonuses, like badges (custom graphical icons) next to their names, which act as status symbols. The longer you subscribe, the more unique badges you have access to.

You can also “Cheer” for a streamer using “Bits,” which are a type of colorful currency exclusive to Twitch. When you Cheer, the number of Bits you used appears in chat, which often leads to thanks coming directly from the streamer and congratulations coming directly from the chat.

The Twitch community loves to support their favorite streamers and talk with other fans of the same streamer, channel, or content.

The Twitch community loves to support their favorite streamers and talk with other fans of the same streamer, channel, or content. Chat and streamer support go together to ensure their passions aren’t just felt internally, but shown externally, to the streamer and to hundreds or thousands of other viewers.

Not all support options are linked to chat, however. For example, one new feature from this year, the Twitch Games Store, lets users buy digital games directly from a streamer’s page. When purchased in this way, users benefit by being able to see whether they like a game before they spend money on it, and streamers enjoy revenue share for every sale originating from their page.

Extensions and Drops

These products are two examples of how Twitch is partnering with developers (of tools and games) to build products that better service the many communities on Twitch.

Extensions are live apps for live streams. They can let users vote on which song to play next. They can let users see which items the streamer has equipped in a video game. They can even be full-fledged games themselves, which we demonstrated in October at our annual convention, TwitchCon. Though we only launched Extensions in November, the community and developer responses have already been incredible.

Drops, on the other hand, are a way for gamers to stay engaged with their favorite games even when they’re just watching, not playing. By partnering with Twitch, game developers can choose to reward Twitch viewers with “drops” of digital items, like weapons or armor, which viewers can receive just by watching a stream of that game. As the “games as a service” model continues to grow, so too will opportunities for gamers to keep making progress in the virtual world, even as they watch along from the real one.

Emotion is Attention

Viewers on Twitch stick around because we constantly make it easier and more fun for people to do what they want to do anyway: to enjoy their hobbies, to chat with people with similar interests, to show gratitude and support, and to feel rewarded for investing their time, energy, and sometimes money, into a community. These emotional connections lead to more attention and time spent on Twitch.

TL;DR: the person who said, “time flies when you’re having fun” was right.

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