How Data Is Driving The Boom In Free-to-stream Platforms

From Twitch to HQ Trivia, live-streaming is all the rage and it's not hard to see why


If you have had a chat with the parents of teenagers, teachers, older siblings, etc, you are bound to be aware of the utter, unquenchable craze that is Fortnite. The game, created by Epic Games, is a co-op sandbox survival game, but like none other. Up to 100 players fight it out in one expansive map in an increasingly imaginative and elaborate battle royale, till there is but one player left standing.

The only thing more astounding than its immense popularity is the outrageous amount of money the game is raking in. The developers of the game have reported $223 million in monthly revenue. It boasts 45 million players worldwide and at its peak, it has had up to 3.4 million concurrent players.

This is a particularly interesting fact when you take into consideration that Fortnite is completely free. In an age where console games were going up in price, Unreal gave their game away. And not only is it free, but unlike other mobile freemium games, you can't pay to increase your performance in any way. You can buy new skins or new dance moves, but nothing that will give you a real competitive advantage. It has no ads (not even on the mobile version) and even the full game 'Save the World' mode, which you currently have to pay for, is also being made free soon.

Unreal isn't the only entertainment company making money hand over fist whilst also completely defying our preconceptions of how a business in a capitalist society should work. Another craze arresting the nation is HQ Trivia, the interactive trivia app. It has been shelling out thousands of dollars to winners daily and again, it's completely free, with minimal advertising.

Silicon Valley is realizing something many young people have understood for a while: The way people consume and more importantly, valuate entertainment, has changed completely. With the advent of peer to peer networks, ever-increasing bandwidths, and streaming sites, there is a generation of people who know they theoretically need never pay for any entertainment. Yet, more and more, with little to no persuasion, they are choosing to.

This movement is captured perfectly in your average Twitch streamer. Twitch is a platform which allows viewers to watch other people play games live. Again, its free to follow a streamer, but a basic subscription costs $4.99 which is split evenly between the platform and the creator. However, this hasn't stopped top streamers like Ninja, from making outlandish amounts of money monthly.

Ninja, whose real name is Tyler Blevins, made mainstream news a few weeks ago when he and Canadian rap sensation, Drake, played Fortnite together. This live-stream alone drew in 628 thousand concurrent viewers! Now, not only is he wildly popular, the Illinois-based, 26-year-old gamer is reportedly making almost half a million dollars every month from his stream alone.

This is all pointing towards the new era in entertainment. As studios die out, they are being replaced by us, the user. Live streaming (with an emphasis on the 'live'), seems to be propelling the industry today and is currently the hottest thing in content production. Today, Facebook, Instagram and youtube all with their own live streaming services.

However, to inspire the level of engagement and foster a community the way Twitch has, where the majority of the money streamers make comes in the form of donations given freely by viewers, you need to understand your base.

And to that, you need data.

This amazing level of interactivity wouldn't be possible if not for the obscene amounts of data which gets analyzed by the Twitch Insights team. This is the backbone of the platform as, while the platform might not produce content themselves, they still need to bring streamers together with the viewers. More than that, they need to use said data to make what is an inherently complex procedure feel seamless and natural.

In order to do this, the developers need a deep understanding of what the users and creators want, and this is impossible without constant, high-quality analytics. "The Twitch Insights Team helps all developers understand how their games are performing on the service." Explains Kristin Chen, Senior Product Manager at Twitch, and speaker at this years Big Data Innovation Summit.

Kristin is a Senior Product Manager at Twitch, focusing on Developer Experience and building Twitch’s Insights product, so she is highly invested in the experience users experience while on the platform. With a company like Twitch, it is not enough for just the platform developers to know analytics because, ultimately, they aren't the only ones responsible for the site.

With enterprises like Twitch or Youtube where the bulk of the content is created externally, it is paramount that the platform forms a partnership with their creators. This relationship needs to not only be harmonious, but make sure everyone is also on the same page and are working towards the same goal.

"We show Game Developers how our community of creators and viewers engage with their games and content via rich audience insights that show the makeup of their streamer, viewer, and player audience on Twitch." Chen continues. "We aim to provide metrics like stream language, location, and platform to help developers understand which audience segments are the most engaged or fastest-growing."

Having the creators exposed to the same metrics as the developers has its advantages. With everyone on the same page, it can really begin to tailor the user experience. However, the platforms true strength comes from the fact that even though each streamer is one amongst many, they are all privy to analytics about themselves. This brings in a new layer of workable insights to the table. "If developers link accounts with Twitch, we get the option to provide more granular analytics about player base on our platform. Our goal is to deliver actionable insights and recommendations to Game Developers so they can not only grow their Twitch community, but also collaborate and integrate with Twitch." Chen explains.

What this all adds up to is not only one of the fastest growing platforms, but one of the strongest online communities going. And this community transcends just gamers and streamers. Twitch understands that it is all one big community, from the game developers all the way to the stream viewers. The acts or feelings of any one of these groups has a domino effect on every other segment of this ecosystem, so aligning them with each other can have a dramatic effect, as Chen concludes:

"These insights [...] not only help Game Developers create games that are more enjoyable to viewers and broadcasters, but also enable Ecosystem Developers to make better tools. Our broadcasters will ultimately leverage these products to create better content and leverage data to better understand their audience."

If you want to learn more about how to use data and creativity to excel on a big scale, attend our Big Data Innovation Summit in Las Vegas July, 17-18


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