Remember the old days of web? Everyone was talking about ‘getting more eyeballs’ – or more viewers to a particular site. Nevermind that frequently there wasn’t a concurrent revenue stream flowing from all those visitors. New brands said, ‘Don’t worry, the revenue will come after we build our numbers.’ And for the most part, investors and advertisers went along for the ride.
Then, right around the time of the dotcom bubble burst, everyone quickly decided that eyeballs alone weren’t enough. What was needed was a reliable way to generate income. That seems simple enough right? It’s the money, honey.
But what’s old always seems to become new again, because the sheer number of visitors to Twitch is what Amazon really likes about their business model. Even though everyone who drops by is there either to play, or more likely watch others play popular video games. Twitch now has 55 million unique viewers a month around the world. They’re credited with turning gaming into a ‘spectator sport’, rather than just a habit-forming activity for gamers themselves.
Those figures were enough to cause Amazon to up the ante to $1 billion to acquire the business. Evidently it was something of a shootout with Google. To quote Bezos, ‘Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month.’ That sounds like a lot of young eyeballs to me.
But it also follows the current mega-media-brand strategy of creating an ever-growing catalog of original content. Today that means not just expensive-to-produce shows like House of Cards and True Detective, but say people playing video games, too. Just like reality TV, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to produce.
Whether or not this will be a return of ‘If you build it, they will come and eventually we’ll make money’ only time will tell.