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How Twitch Works

Twitch Tools for Developers
The iPhone app for Twitch enables on-the-go sharing for viewers.
The iPhone app for Twitch enables on-the-go sharing for viewers.
Image courtesy of Twitch

Twitch offers a software development kit (SDK) to help developers and gaming companies work Twitch support into their products. The hope is that this will help users to live-stream and share recorded gameplay easily -- sometimes with a single button click. Developers can work Twitch's chat capabilities directly into their games and provide metadata from the games back to Twitch to provide extra information to viewers or easier sorting by game version or mods. Twitch can even use the information to prompt a user to share highlights when something interesting happens in the game. Developers can incorporate leaderboards, contests and other community based content to increase the involvement of players, as well as collect analytics.

The latest SDK even reportedly enables mobile game streaming, including footage from your mobile device's front facing camera [source: Hockenson].

Per the Twitch site, these are games that have Click-to-Twitch capabilities built-in as of mid-2014:

  • "Age of Empires 2"
  • "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2"
  • "Company of Heroes 2"
  • "Cubemen 2"
  • "Drunken Robot Pornography"
  • "Duel of Champions"
  • "Firefall"
  • "Forced"
  • "Guncraft"
  • "Gun Monkeys"
  • "Infinite Crisis"
  • "Maniaplanet"
  • "Minecraft"
  • "Overwolf"
  • "Path of Exile"
  • "Planetside 2"
  • "The Showdown Effect"
  • "Smite"
  • "War Thunder"

"The Showdown Effect," a PC game by Paradox Interactive, was reportedly the first game with built-in Twitch support [source: Stark].

Twitch also offers an API to help web developers integrate Twitch content and functionality into their sites and web applications. Available features developers can tap into include "Twitch Connect" to let users log in with their Twitch account, information on what's live streaming at any given moment, information on top videos, information on what channels users subscribe to or follow, and Twitch search capabilities.

Game developers can use these tools to integrate Twitch broadcasting, viewing and chat into their games. They can include things like a list of all the available live streams of the game. And they can collect clips and data from Twitch to share with their communities.

People are coming up with inventive new ways to game using Twitch. An anonymous programmer in Australia set up the experimental TwitchPlaysPokemon channel in February 2014. It allowed a multitude of viewers to control and step through the Nintendo Gameboy game "Pokemon Red" by entering commands via chat. The channel is still going, running other Pokemon and Nintendo games. Users can enter the names of buttons (up, down, left, right, A or B), coordinates for touchscreen inputs and some other game-specific commands. It had as many as 120,000 simultaneous players at one point, and as of this writing has more than 276,000 followers and more than 62 million total views [sources: Magdaleno, Twitch Interactive].

Game development company Zombie Studios has even built that sort of Twitch chat interactivity right into its PC and PlayStation 4 game "Daylight," which allows viewers to affect the player's game via chat.