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How Twitch Works

By: Bernadette Johnson  | 

The Present and Future of Game Streaming

Feeling social? You can chat with players and viewers on a Twitch channel.
Feeling social? You can chat with players and viewers on a Twitch channel.
Image courtesy of Twitch

There are any number of sites where gamers can broadcast their gameplay besides Twitch. As mentioned earlier, Twitch was born out of one of them, Justin.tv. Others include Ustream.tv (another popular live-streaming site), Google Hangouts and YouTube.

YouTube, the king of video hosting sites, has lots of users displaying gameplay and related content, often dubbed "Let's Play" videos, with many on the LetsPlay group of YouTube channels. Some proof of the popularity of gameplay videos might lie in the fact that Felix Kjellberg's PewDiePie YouTube channel boasts more than 27 million subscribers, the most of any single YouTube user, even more than YouTube's own channel [sources: Heaven, MacMillan, YouTube]. There are many other gaming users on YouTube at various levels of subscribership. The multi-channel group Machinima has garnered more than 11 million subscribers with its game-related serial fiction and other similar content. Although uploaded videos are what YouTube is known for, they also offer live streaming via YouTube Live, including a group of channels dedicated to live gaming.

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It is not the only game in town, but Twitch stands out for being the largest site dedicated entirely to the streaming of gameplay and related content. And it's catching up to and even surpassing some sites you wouldn't expect as far as online traffic. During the week ending February 3, 2014, Twitch was fourth in peak web traffic by bandwidth at 1.8 percent, which put them behind Netflix, Google (which includes YouTube) and Apple, but ahead of HBO Go, Hulu, Facebook, Valve and Amazon, to name a few [sources: Mosley, Twitch Interactive, Twitch Advertising]. The company Qwilt says that around 44 percent of all live streaming web traffic (bandwidth-wise) the week of April 7, 2014 was through Twitch [source: MacMillan].

Given those figures and the ever increasing numbers of viewers and participants, it doesn't look like Twitch, or live game streaming in general, is going out of style anytime soon.

Twitch FAQ

What is Twitch?
Twitch is a live-streaming platform on which streamers "broadcast" their gameplay or activity by sharing their screen with fans and subscribers who can hear and watch them live.
Is a Twitch account free?
A Twitch account is completely free to sign up for. You don't need an account to watch most streams, but you do need one to stream yourself or interact with channels.
How much do Twitch streamers make?
Most Twitch streamers don't earn anything, but expert streamers can make $3,000 to $5,000 every month playing around 40 hours a week. In addition, streamers make an average of $250 for every 100 subscribers. The top four streamers earn an estimated $2 to $5 million per year on Twitch.
How do you make a channel on Twitch?
To make a channel, you need to sign up for an account either on your computer or mobile phone. On a PC: Go to www.twitch.tv; click the Sign up button on the top-right corner; and fill out the form, including a username, password, email address, and date of birth. On mobile: Download the Twitch app from you phone's store; launch the app; tap the Sign up button; fill out the form, including a username, password, phone number, and date of birth; and hit the Sign up button at the bottom of the screen. Twitch will then send you a one-time 6-digit code to confirm your phone number, which you should enter in the boxes below "Enter your verification code" on the screen in the app.
Does Twitch have a desktop app?
Twitch has desktop apps both macOS and Windows. It also has a variety of TV apps that integrate with your consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV. You can download them here.