Twitch is an ideal service not only for livestreamers to broadcast their favorite games, but also developers and publishers that work with these influencers to showcase different titles. But how closely Twitch correlates with a game’s success has largely been a matter of guessing until now.
The company recently shared a report compiled by Twitch data scientist Danny Hernandez, who discussed the analytics behind the successes. He began by explaining how a Twitch community grew for a little-known title three years ago called Hearthstone, which would eventually become one of Blizzard’s most popular titles, generating $250 million this year alone.
Smaller publishers and developers are benefitting from Twitch livestreams. Hernandez discussed how some players get into a game by watching someone else play it on Twitch first, then purchasing it. “Twitch provides the most authentic preview of a game you’ll find on the Internet,” he explained, as opposed to game trailers that simply showcase features.
Hernandez noted how indie titles like Punch Club and The Culling saw a small percentage of their sales attributed to Twitch broadcasts and influencers giving them recommendations. Not only that, but major titles such as Tom Clancy’s The Division from Ubisoft saw a near 20 percent boost thanks to Twitch broadcasts.
Some Twitch broadcasts come before a game even launches, with developers providing the game to influencers ahead of time to build buzz around it. That’s exactly what the team at tinyBuild did for Punch Club, but with a twist. It hosted a Twitch Plays presentation where viewers could input commands into the chat for the player to perform—very similar to Twitch Plays Pokémon, except with a live player. As a result, the company found a community of fans who loved the game.
“Within six weeks, 1.2 million viewers watched Punch Club on Twitch,” noted Hernandez. “The viewing experience was so compelling that 2.8 percent of Steam-connected viewers went on to buy the game.
A large number of sales are also attributed to those with larger concurrent viewer counts. About 46 percent of the games with referred sales had between 33 and 33,333 concurrent viewers, although some with only zero to three also gained a good deal of interest. “Mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters, and small broadcasters convert views into purchases 1,000 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters,” said Hernandez.
Retention also makes a difference with a game’s success, since “products that can’t retain users stop growing and eventually disappear.”
These numbers indicate that some games get a boost from players continuing to take part in them on Twitch, including Valve’s competitive multiplayer shooter, Team Fortress 2, along with the free-to-play Path of Exile—both of which have a high number of viewing fans. Other games, such as Dota 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, have a strong retention rate that’s mainly due to the offering of new content.
Twitch plays a huge part with players and retention, with 82 percent of viewers indicating that they watched player channels to some extent to keep interest in the game, compared to the 77 percent that didn’t with certain games.
Danny Hernandez sat down with [a]listdaily to talk more about the report’s results.
What do you think is the biggest draw factor when it comes to an indie game finding success on Twitch?
The biggest draw for any game on Twitch finding success is being compelling. It might sound obvious, but there are other mediums where a less compelling game can have significant buzz based on trailers that show selective gameplay footage. Twitch makes it super clear what the actual gameplay looks like and how much fun the broadcaster is having. Because of this, Twitch makes it much more achievable for great indie games to find their audience without a huge marketing budget.
Do mid-tier influencers make a big difference in a game’s long-term success?
Based on my research, mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters, so they are definitely a key part of the equation. I also view the intimate nature of mid-sized influencer channels as being critical in forming communities that retain players. This, in turn, translates to long-term success.
Retention really seems to make a difference with some games on Twitch. What do you think it is that keeps players coming back?
Games provide long-term value to their players in a variety of ways. For example, eSports leverage other players to keep things fresh, survival games exhilarate broadcasters and audiences with high stakes and fear, and sandbox/modable games leverage the unending desire of players to create.
Content is king, but while content is frequently viewed as what is happening on the screen, we’ve learned that the chat is also a form of content. If the broadcaster frequently engages with their community, things the community suggests or comments on in chat can and frequently do impact the choices a broadcaster makes, thus creating content that otherwise might not have existed if chat were disabled. The community in chat also can impact engagement based on how they interact with new viewers. For example, if the chat regulars are overtly welcoming and social, visitors are more compelled to stick around with a goal of joining that community. At the end of the day, there is no shortcut to success on Twitch, but a myriad of ways to achieve it.