Breakup with Twitch

Twitch is back to doing Twitch things. What now, you ask? So, so much. Instead of the usual one at a time, they’ve gone all in on poor decision making. Let’s look at the three that irritate me the most.

Mid-Stream Commercials

They’ve been testing “mid-roll” ads. These are video advertisements that interrupt the streamer’s content, sending it into a muted picture-in-picture window in the upper corner of the stream. Now, the “pre-roll” (as you enter stream) ads are bad enough. You can’t skip them, you can’t provide feedback on them, and they certainly don’t earn you any Bits. If you were a paid member of Twitch Prime, their paid premium membership, you didn’t see any ads. NO MORE! Now, you get free games (that I don’t want) or in-game cosmetics (that I rarely want), and you see “pre-roll” ads like anybody else. Unless you’ve subscribed to that streamer. Confused yet? Welcome to Twitch.

Oh, and be sure that it’ll change again soon, with little to no notice. So, let me try to break this down a little bit, as I understand it.

For the pre-roll ads, Twitch’s logic was that it supported the streamer, because the desire to avoid ads would encourage people to purchase paid subscriptions to their favorite streamers.

  • Did they provide streamers the option to enable and disable pre-roll ads, so they could decide whether their viewers should have their eyeballs held hostage? Nope.
  • Did they provide the Twitch Prime members the choice between ad-free viewing and games/cosmetics? Nope.

So, big changes in the way paid memberships and ads work, no community input from Affiliates, streamers, or viewers. Very little notice. No response to consistent feedback of “We don’t want this!”

Now, it appears they’ve learned the smallest lesson from their last change. Let’s break down the recent mid-roll testing, as I understand it.

The bad:

  • No communication to Affiliates, streamers, or viewers until the day of.
  • Interrupting streamers’ content (what brings the eyeballs to the ads in the first place), shrinking it, and muting it.

The good:

  • The massive negative response on Twitter was recorded – responses were tallied.
  • An after-the-fact opinion poll was taken – responses were tallied.
  • There wasn’t any attempt to spin this as good for the streamer or their community.

Music Player

Twitch is rolling out their own music player for streamers. It’s guaranteed to be safe from copyright claims, much like Pretzel.rocks. However, instead of paying the labels and the artists their due, they are using legal loopholes to completely avoid paying for using and broadcasting the musicians’ work. Completely unlike Pretzel. This would be a normal corporate move, except that Twitch is part of Amazon, which has already built an entire infrastructure and application suite for legally playing music, keeping track of which artist, which album, and which song were played, and for what purpose.

Presenting a Twitch-branded player for in-stream music that purposefully works around paying the artists what they’re due is despicable.

Small Raids

Small streams are the norm. From my understanding, they are over 85% of the streams that run on Twitch. And when I say small, I mean 10 viewers or less. If one of these streamers, like myself, wants to send their viewers to another streamer at the end of their stream, they use a Twitch command called “raid”. This sends your viewers to the other stream, and sends a notification to that streamer. Many of us like to celebrate being raided, thanking the streamer for sending us their viewers, and welcoming them all to the community. Often, people will raid others playing the same game, or others that they know will treat their viewers well.

Twitch has stopped sending raid notifications for five or less viewers. This means that for the vast majority of raids, streamers are blind to the gesture, and to the people that have suddenly joined their viewership. That welcome, and that fostering of community, is no longer part of the Twitch experience.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Twitch is going the way YouTube did, and there’s no reason to stick around for it. I’ll be moving my stream to DLive starting Monday, so you’ll be able to catch it here on my usual schedule – Monday and Wednesday at 9PM Eastern, and one day on the weekend.

So long, Twitch.

Goodbye, digestive system.

I think, in retrospect, this might be one of the things I look back on fondly, but wonder what, really, WHAT, was I thinking? This Saturday, at 3PM Eastern time, I will be participating in a Hot Ones-inspired wing challenge, with good friends and streamers.

If you’d like to see me suffer, tune in either at my Twitch channel or Zeb’s. It’ll be good times! (Face melting not guaranteed!)

TwitchCon 2018, the end

Exit banner, Good Luck Have Fun

What did TwitchCon do right? Plenty.

The panels/break-out sessions, while sometimes questionably staffed, were varied and targeted to all levels of streamer, from hobbyist to full-timer.

The swag is high quality and looks like it’s going to last for a while. Last year’s leftover swag being in discount bin “loot boxes” was a nice touch.

Entertainment was provided for the swag line, since they knew it’d be long. Live music entertained us while we waited, but wasn’t so loud that we couldn’t hold conversations.

The Twitch Prime lounge was nice, provided a lot of seating, and both sunlight and shade. The free refreshments and breather from the greater convention were worth getting that sticker on my badge.

The con provided accommodations for those medically unable to stand in lines. At every line, there was an express lane labeled “medical” for those who needed it. I heard zero griping from the people in lines around me, and was really happy that if I choose to come back later in life, when my knees are even worse, I will still have the option to participate.

The streamer roast was both hilarious and offensive to all up on stage. Which means it was perfect.

Kevin Smith. Kevin freaking Smith. KEVIN SMITH.

Do I regret going to TwitchCon 2018? Not for a second. Would I go again? Well… probably not. There would have to be a lot of changes for me to spring for the ticket, hotel, and airfare again. It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 4

The expo floor was more of the same. Or, rather, it seemed to magnify the frenetic energy, the need to push to the front to be noticed, and the stratification between community, affiliates, and partners.

Areas for booths did not provide for lines or crowds, so any booths that were popular or had timed events would inevitably block foot traffic in the pathways that surrounded them. While the entire space looked impressive and awesome from the entrance doors, no consideration seemed to be given to how one was supposed to get through from one booth to the next, how one was supposed to interact with vendors once there, if demand was anything more than abysmal. It was mostly pushing, shoving, waiting, being pushed, and being shoved.

Plenty of hype, plenty of shiny, abysmal user experience.

Let’s talk about streaming booths. TwitchCon is a convention that hosts thousands of streamers, most of which stream video games. How many of those are hoping to be able to hop online and tell their audiences, “Streaming live to you from TwitchCon 2018!”

I can tell you that I was hoping to do that. Originally, I was planning on reserving spaces for some or all of the Powerless Gaming crew at AFK GG Gamer Lounge in downtown San Jose. Our hotel was less than a block away, and I’d streamed from there multiple times. My plans were dashed when they closed their doors a few months before TwitchCon.

That should’ve been fine, right? There’s no way that a streaming convention would drop the ball on providing a way to stream, right?

There were a few long tables set up in the hallway outside the expo hall, with ten to fifteen open-air streaming stations. Each station had nearly the same list of four to five games that could be played, none of which was up my alley or my viewers’. Despite that, I checked availability. Of course, they were booked, there were thousands of streamers there!

Wandering the expo floor, I stumbled upon a couple of pods of glass-enclosed cubicles that looked designed for streaming. What luck! I found the person managing them, only to discover that these were only provided for partners, and were all booked beforehand. Did it matter that three out of four of them were sitting empty? Nope.

In the end, I was completely unable to stream from TwitchCon, and avoided the expo floor far more than I would have preferred.