Twitch is the fourth biggest site on the web, with 50 million visitors a month and valued at $1 billion.
The site allows people to stream their video games as they play them with live commentary — everything from League of Legends to DOTA2 to vintage Mario Brothers.
Non-gamers might not get the appeal of watching other people play, but Twitch COO Kevin Lin says it shouldn’t be surprising. A whole generation grew up doing it while playing Nintendo with their friends.
“If there were more than two people in the room, you were sitting there watching each other play, giving each other feedback, maybe talking a little smack,” Lin said. “And that’s the sort of interactivity around that gameplay that makes it a habitual social activity within our generation.”
While other media companies are trying to catch up, Twitch has been streaming big e-sports tournaments for a long time, like the recent DOTA2 championship that sold out a stadium in Seattle to watch gamers compete for a $5 million prize.
Not all Twitch streamers are expert gamers, many are amateurs who draw viewers for their personalities, rather than skills. What makes Twitch different from YouTube is the focus on live streams — with streamers responding to their viewers in real-time, creating a live performance. Many crack jokes or even sing songs while they stream.
And the best streamers can make their living on Twitch. About 6,000 streamers participate in the partner program to share revenue from ads and even charge viewers $5 a month to watch their feeds. The best can take home six-figure incomes.
“It sometimes makes us wonder if we should just be streaming instead of working on Twitch,” Lin said.
Google is reportedly in talks to acquire Twitch for $1 billion. Lin won’t comment on the rumor.
“Gaming’s not going anywhere. Gaming as entertainment will only continue to grow and probably outpace traditional forms of entertainment,” he said. “We have sights on being a pretty big network.