Twitch has had a troubled 2019, it’s fair to say, with controversies ranging from animal abuse to prejudice and even domestic violence on stream. Against this backdrop, it’s sad but a bit predictable that the story generating most discussion about the platform didn’t come from any of those very serious issues, but the fact the company ended up letting a porn channel advertise on Ninja’s old page.
Twitter went mad, with #TWITCHISOVERPARTY trending, but to be honest we are a long way from the end of Twitch, or even the beginning of the end, especially as fans of Counter-Strike. More competition in the space could vastly benefit CS:GO, and the timing is perfect for a competitor – but Twitch needs us more than we need them, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
If you’re a fan of the greatest gun game going, you’ll remember the ill-fated deal ESL struck with Facebook in 2018 that saw a percentage of their content streamed live on Mark Zuckerberg’s private data collection sit…sorry, meant to say social network. It’s fair to say that didn’t go down well, which is a shame, as Twitch have dominated the scene for so long they have become complacent, and competition would do them good.
While that deal would no doubt have discouraged other potential partners from coming into CS, there is more than just money that makes it a tough sell for a lot of potentially new partners for the game. Where Facebook are desperate for anything that can make their platform relevant, the theoretical main contender YouTube has its own gig (and problems), one that doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank to bring esports to a platform that already provides so much to so many.
What makes a difference now is essentially just the temperature of the water, in community terms, with Facebook having run in first while others watched from the beach. If one of the larger social media sites were to realise that and come in with bid in the wake of the cat-throwing, porn-showing, s1mple-banning months, it would likely see a very different reaction to 2018, when the community basically refused to interact with Facebook. Of course, it’s not really in Twitch’s interests to let that happen, because…
Read more: Money alone won't fix the Tier 2 Dota scene
As I said above, it was essentially the desperate need to pivot anywhere that led Facebook to work with ESL, but other platforms like YouTube are nowhere near as needy for new avenues of revenue, for one simple reason. Twitch probably cannot survive without esports content – and definitely can’t survive without gaming content – meaning the value of the rights to them is exponentially higher than to a platform with more strings to their bow.
You might point out that gaming and esports are not the same, which is true, and the likes of shroud, summit and others would still bring views if CS and Dota left tomorrow, probably. The interesting question would be whether the relationship between gamers like those and esports would lead to a mass exodus over time, leaving Twitch as nothing more than a platform for people who want to throw cats or stream themselves eating.
The exciting thing about the Mixer news is that the company looks like an actual contender in the same space, with the same means and apparent goals, though it remains to be seen whether they’re willing to commit enough resources to the project in the long run. The potential of that service is also higher for console games to some degree, but Microsoft definitely have the cash to take more than just Ninja if they decide to fully commit to the esports life and become a company that loves the space.
For now though, while there are no doubt opportunities for CS, Dota and the like to make money elsewhere, it’s unlikely anyone will outbid Twitch as the value of esports to the purple people is just higher than virtually anyone else right now. Competition should be celebrated though, and it’s not impossible that at least one Major next year is shown on a different streaming service, which, contrary to popular opinion would be fundamentally a good thing for the future of CSGO.