Today, Amazon spent $970 million to acquire Twitch, the online video broadcast platform for gamers. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear joined Michael Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games, in a town hall on Twitch to outline just what the acquisition means for the platform.
The theme of the broadcast? We're not going to be told much in the way of specifics—for now. This much is clear, however: As a subsidiary of Amazon, Twitch will maintain control over its own direction.
“The exciting thing about the Amazon deal is I get to keep doing what I do,” Shear said. “The only change is I get to do it faster.” Amazon, Shear noted, can provide a lot of the things that Twitch—in its capacity as a startup—has occasionally lacked, including engineering talent, backend infrastructure, and eeven relationships with game developers and advertisers.
Gamers long held had a real fear that a bigger company might swoop in and ruin their beloved community. Since May, rumors have swirled that online video monster YouTube had snatched up Twitch for a $1 billion price tag. Users fretted that YouTube's unpopular copyright protection system might infringe on their community, or that Twitch might be forced to integrate Google+.
During that period, Twitch introduced a number of controversial changes, such as an automated audio recognition software for copyright protection that censored many legitimate videos. Users blamed the potential acquisition on the move, but Shear was adamant then—and today—that only he and his fellow Twitch executives are to blame for the "necessary" changes.
In the end it was Amazon that made a deal. And Frazzini says there's no need for Amazon to meddle with their new acquisition.
“Twitch is absolutely doing a great job and we don’t want to change that at all,” Frazzini said.
Shear and Frazzini two spoke of a shared, customer-oriented culture as a driving point behind the acquisition. The two have known each other since the inception of Twitch three years ago, and with Amazon pushing hard into the gaming market, the acquisition seemed like a great idea.
The pair put to bed a worry many gamers voiced over the acquisition: yes, Amazon is a retail company, but it's not just a retail company. Sure, they sell a lot of games, but the company is investing heavily in gaming, even starting its game studio. It's used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide developers tools that help them worry more about design than backend infrastructure. Twitch is now the crown jewel in Amazon’s gaming push.
“Twitch is a substantial step in the same direction,” Frazzini explained. “If you look at what Twitch and the community has created in such a short time it’s phenomenal.
“We really think this is just the beginning.”
Amazon is betting heavily on gaming and Twitch. Frazzini has 10 years in the industry and 10,000 hours playing games (he admitted to an unhealthy Civilization addiction), and his vision for gaming’s future aligns with Shear's—one centered around not just players of games, but an audience for them. Frazzini pointed out how many AAA developers are incorporating esports and the idea of an audience into their games, and this lets Amazon be a part of that.
The upshot for Twitch and its users is that the company will be able to take advantage of Amazon expertise and services to improve the platform. Shear said its fair to “expect the quality of service will improve” thanks to Amazon’s infrastructure and expertise.
Twitch partners worried the acquisition may affect their contract with the company and their revenue stream can rest at ease. Shear emphatically stated there will be no change to the deals, and pointed out how Amazon could help partners monetize their streams.
“We think there’s huge potential to help broadcasters build awesome affiliate programs and recommend games to their viewers and find new ways to unlock monetization on their channels,” Shear said.
For example, broadcasters who impact game sales by helping viewers discover a title could get a cut of the sales. And then there are gsubscriptions, another key monetization method on Twitch. Currently the site's partners and broadcasters have trouble accepting payment from many countries around the world. Who knows more about online payment than the biggest online retailer in the world?
The pair was mum on plans for any other concrete products, though Frazzini did say they would “look closely” at some kind of pairing between Twitch Turbo and Amazon Prime, the two company’s premium subscription services. At this point, though, the deal is more about finding a shared future than embarking with one set in mind.
“We’re really excited about the possibilities,” Frazzini said.
Screengrab via Twitch