Twitch’s relationship with its streamers shows its cracks


For years, Twitch has wrestled with whether it could balance being a place where video game players could happily make good money from livestreaming to fans with becoming a profitable company.

That conundrum dogged the platform as it grew from a small startup called to an Amazon-owned, pandemic-fueled behemoth in the world of live video. Today, as many as 8 million streamers broadcast their gaming exploits, cooking experiments and political hot takes every month to the 31 million viewers who visit the platform each day.

Along the way, Twitch has mostly maintained the goodwill of the streamers who are its lifeblood. But that has been changing, and streamers say they are increasingly worried that they’re being forgotten by the platform in the name of profits. More than a dozen star Twitch streamers have switched to YouTube in recent years, and the service risks losing more to other livestreaming platforms.

Rebellion was in the air this month at TwitchCon, a gathering of 30,000 people in San Diego where fans meet their favorite streamers in person. Streamers, while holding their usual meet-and-greets and reuniting with their friends, said they were angry about a recent decision Twitch made to take a greater cut of the revenue some streamers make from fans subscribing to their channels — a change they believe is emblematic of Twitch’s shifting priorities.

“The displeasure with that decision is tangible,” said Taylor Drury, who streams on Twitch as Taylien. “We’re all confirming with each other: ‘You hate this?’ ‘Yeah, we all hate this.’”

Streamers say there are other signs that Twitch is losing touch with its community, a complaint that has been leveled at other streaming and video services over the years as they have matured.

An effort by Twitch to persuade streamers to run more advertisements on their channels has dismayed creators who say more ads will repel their viewers. The executives who were considered to be the biggest supporters of the streamer community have departed. Streamers say communication with the company has deteriorated, and they believe Twitch has prioritized adding engineers over hiring people to handle their concerns.

Samantha Faught, a Twitch spokesperson, said Twitch had tripled the number of employees in “community-facing” roles in the past two years and added new ways for streamers to give feedback. She acknowledged that because of the platform’s rapid growth, “it becomes harder to scale the personalized communication and feeling of close connection.” She said relationships with streamers remained a priority.

Streamers also wonder if Twitch is under pressure from Amazon, which purchased the service in 2014. Andy Jassy, who took over as Amazon’s CEO in July 2021, has looked for ways to control costs this year, as Amazon’s growth has slowed to its lowest level in two decades. The company has focused on efficiencies in its warehouses, shuttered teams with lackluster projects and temporarily frozen hiring in its retail division.

Amazon does not break out Twitch’s financials, though analysts do not believe the site, which has more than 1,800 employees, turns a profit.

“It’s wild that Amazon is trying to force Twitch to squeeze more revenue out of top content creators,” Hasan Piker, one of the site’s biggest names, said in an interview. At his booth on the convention floor, Piker, known as HasanAbi on Twitch, was giving out faux newspaper front pages with a provocative headline: “Twitch Steals 30% of Revenue From Content Creators.”


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