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Amazon’s Twitch Will Start Selling Game Downloads From Players’ Live Broadcasts

Variety logo Variety 2/27/2017 Todd Spangler

More than two years after Twitch was acquired by Amazon, the company is charging onto the ecommerce playing field.

Starting this spring, Twitch will let its 17,000 game-broadcasting partners sell games and in-game content directly from their pages on the platform, while they’re live-streaming gameplay. Publishers will earn 70% of the revenue and partnered Twitch streamers will earn 5% for sales originating from their channel pages; Twitch will keep the remaining 25%. Twitch is positioning the move as helping its top streamers — for whom live-streaming is a full-time job — earn more money on the platform.

As part of the program, Twitch will reward users who buy game titles with a free “Twitch Crate,” a package of randomized digital goodies such as exclusive chat emoji, chat badges, and “Bits for Cheering,” which lets fans give shout-outs to their favorite gamers.

Twitch has signed several major and indie publishers for the ecommerce program, including Ubisoft, Telltale Games, Digital Extremes, Hi-Rez Studios, tinyBuild, Paradox Interactive, Trion Worlds and Vlambeer. The program covers PC downloads only, not titles for consoles (which will require separate deals with console manufacturers).

“For years we have appreciated how supportive Twitch streamers and viewers have been of our games,” said Chris Early, VP of digital publishing at Ubisoft. “This made it an easy decision to work with Twitch to better serve our passionate community with benefits for everyone.”

While not every game publisher is participating out of the gate, “The hope is to get to the point where everything you see on Twitch, you can buy on Twitch,” said Twitch VP of commerce Matt McCloskey, who joined the company last month.

Twitch wanted to be mindful about rolling out ecommerce in a way that is “authentic to the Twitch experience,” according to McCloskey, who describes the program as facilitating “social commerce.” For one thing, that means there won’t simply be a static “buy” button on the platform; rather, the opportunity to purchase will pop up only when a streamer plays the game.

“We’re not solving for game distribution. The No. 1 goal for us is to grow the Twitch community,” said McCloskey, who previously was COO of Microsoft’s 343 Industries (the studio behind “Halo”).

Hi-Rez Studios, for its part, will be making in-game content from titles including “Smite” and “Paladins” available on Twitch. “The opportunity to buy appears right where a streamer is playing and viewers are engaged in watching and learning about the game,” said COO Todd Harris. “Since the streamer gets a revenue share of purchases made, this is a great way to further support streamers who educate and entertain viewers.”

Games purchased on the service can be downloaded and played via Twitch’s launcher, desktop app currently used to distribute free games as a perk of Twitch Prime, or through existing developer or publisher-operated services like Uplay.

Twitch has about 2.2 million users who broadcast gameplay monthly on the service. However, to enable game purchases, they must be approved under Twitch’s partner program, whose guidelines specify that broadcasters should regularly have at least 500 concurrent viewers and broadcast at least three times per week.

Here’s a mock-up of the Twitch page for Tyler “Ninja” Blevins showing how the “buy now” button will appear (in the lower left-hand corner), in this case for Ubisoft title “Tom Clancy’s The Division”:

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