Why should eSports fans care about the recent changes to Twitch? Because last month saw some of the most telling examples of a push for eSports streaming to be taken seriously as a business, ESL managing director Ralf Reichert tells Polygon.
But these macro-level changes probably won't be visible at an individual level just yet, says Team Liquid director of operations Matt Webers who maintains most noticeable repercussions will be to events and not individual users.
The knock-on effect for the future of eSports
"I've seen very few people on the eSports side care one way or another, it's just sort of something to keep in mind. Seems like everyone I hear freaking out are either in the speedrunning community or fans who have a personal stream they cherish, which is maybe interesting or maybe just a side effect of how I spend my days hunting for amusing video game drama. Largely I think it has very little impact on esports at all," says Weber.
"It has slightly more relevance because for some events, their Twitch recording is how they save their history. Losing that would be fairly bad for archival purposes, but isn't something to get too worried about as most tournaments also upload all of their games to YouTube due to the more robust video system."
The greater knock-on effect will be to how eSports is considered a serious business, continues Reichert.
"As eSports continues to grow out of its niche, many of the 'underdog' advantages will begin to disappear too," says Reichert. "Many fans recognize the archaic legal requirements which are a pain for many industries but the discussion of whether they should be changed, and whether they should be abided by are not really related. There is nothing Twitch can do about that right now, and the requirements do in fact protect users from potential legal ramifications."
The changes to the service mean users now need to be more vigilant about the music they play while making gameplay videos. That's because Twitch is now scanning videos for unauthorized third-party audio — in-game and ambient music — and automatically muting that content.
"This is a step toward legitimacy, as people will need to plan effectively in order to keep their business going."
"The crackdown on licensed music was going to happen eventually, and for many teams it's worth it to work with it," eSports commentator Matt Demers tells us, in reference to the use of personal music playlists used while streaming. "While the viewers may lament the loss of 'Sandstorm' dance parties and 'Let It Go' karaoke, this is a step towards legitimacy, as people will need to plan effectively in order to keep their business going. Those who want to stream as a job will suddenly need to do a bit more work, but it makes sense for the security of their product to have proper usage rights for everything they put into it.
"If a music artist needs to clear samples on a song before selling it, it makes sense for a streamer to need permission before broadcasting to thousands of people."
In an earlier announcement, Twitch confirmed it has partnered with software company Audible Magic, which works with the music industry, "to scan past and future [videos-on-demand] for music owned or controlled by" its clients. If that scan identifies a recorded video that infringes upon a copyright claim, the video's audio will be muted for a 30-minute block in which that song appears.
Reichert maintains the larger repercussions of these changes are positive for eSports.
"It is bad news for some users, but I think it is massively overshadowed by the advantages of eSports reaching closer to the mainstream — this is part of the process of fans and the industry growing together. Many European and Asian countries have similar regulations to those Twitch has begun to execute, so a few years ago at ESL we started to enforce these types of restrictions. They are growing pains, but we expect that others will quickly adopt them also."
"This is part of the process of fans and the industry growing together..."
Amazon confirmed last week that it has reached an agreement to buy video game livestreaming service Twitch for $970 million. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2014.
Confirmation of the deal comes after multiple reports that pegged Amazon's buyout of Twitch at more than $1 billion. Earlier reports indicated that Google-owned YouTube was eyeing Twitch for a purchase.
Twitch was launched in June 2011 by Justin.tv co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear and focuses on live video game streams and eSports broadcasting, though the company has started to expand its live offerings beyond video games. Twitch boasts more than 55 million visitors per month and topped 1 million monthly broadcasters earlier this year.