Why are people paying others to play games?

At first glance the name Twitch.tv comes across as more confusing than intuitive.  Something in the realm of a drug side effect than a popular video site. Honestly could you guess that everyday on average 4 million viewers watch over 2 hours of content from it? Content being basically live streams of someone else playing a video game? That’s more viewers per week than Breaking Bad, Preseason NFL, and tosh.0 combined. It’s pretty astonishing if you ask me.

In just a few years the live video streaming service has gone from an interesting niche idea to clogging the internet like a boss. It joins Netflix, Apple, and Google in peak internet traffic claiming 1.8% just above Hulu at 1.7%. There’s also the business aspect of streaming which isn’t just for the hobbyist. Professional streamer Jeffrey Shih told Forbes that the best streamers can bring home upwards of $100,000 on their streams alone. That’s some serious cash for just “sitting around playing games”.

What’s also serious is how Twtich.tv started. Twitch was origionally called Justin.tv and started as the personal site where Justin Kan would lifecast to the world. Lifecasting involved streaming events over the internet usually point of view style. It meant wearing head mounted cameras giving the viewer a very personal and entertaining experience. This concept transitioned over into Twtich.tv by allowing anyone with the right hardware to stream live gameplay over the interent. This last February Justin.tv was dropped in favor of building Twitch 100% and pushing it into the mainstream.

So when your internet speeds start to dip in the evenings after everyone gets home you’ll might be able to blame live streaming.

Strangely enough though this service isn’t exactly on the western radar yet being adopted more quickly by the European and Asian countries. It wasn’t until about six months ago when Google pondered the idea of buying Twitch that it started to really get noticed. Plot twist however Amazon just snagged it for a cool $970 million to add to it’s ever growing portfolio of world domination. It seems as if gaming as a spectator sport is coming to fruition and quickly thanks to huge investments of cash from the tech giant. If they are printing that kind of money you can bet they have a plan for the future, and hopefully it benefits all gamers whether professional, hobbyist, viewer or streamer.

The best streamers can bring home upwards of $100,000 on their streams alone.

The numbers are there and the cash is flowing in, but the biggest question most ask is “why should I care”?

Why indeed. The idea of watching someone else’s game seems pointless. With today’s hardware being so affordable and customizable why on earth would you waste your time watching someone else? Shouldn’t you be playing yourself?

Interestingly enough this is where Twitch really shines. It’s not just about the content but also the micro communities. Built in chat, custom emoticons, giveaways, and other channel specific benefits give viewers a reason to come back daily. That and the content is always new, even if it’s just picking up from the save game the day before.

Steamers can have real time interaction with just a handful of viewers up to hundreds of thousands. The audience can interact and change what they are watching by just commenting. Giving a community aspect above and beyond traditional television or other video sites like YouTube. Gamers have even quit their full-time jobs where they try to make it off revenue from YouTube and Twitch

Over the next few years, with the help of eSports and gaming colleges, you will probably see the entire gaming sector sky rocket. Gaming talk shows, professional tournaments, and overall quality of content is growing by leaps and bounds every month.

Twitch much like Vine, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks doesn’t make sense to outsiders. However gaming, like every other social medium thrives off personal interaction and just moved to the digital realm. Watching others play games may sound boring, but when you think about it, isn’t that was we did as kids? In our parent’s basement watching our friend make an incredible run on Sonic the Hedgehog. All that’s really changed is now your couch can seat thousands of friends from all around the world.

It’s a good time to be a gamer.