Twitch is simultaneously reaching into the past while looking towards the future.
The live-streaming video gaming site, recently acquired by Amazon for close to $1 billion, is the reemergence of the arcade, only a millions of times bigger than the arcade ever was. So said Emmett Shear, Twitch co-founder and CEO, Monday at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
Playing video games used to be embedded in a very social atmosphere—most of the time was spent waiting for your turn and watching people play, Shear explained. In that way, Twitch resembles the long history of video games, and the company is taking a retro stance to go back to the very beginning. Twitch, he added, has regained that social shared interactive experience by watching other gamers livestream their gameplay.
Amazon’s acquisition, however, means Twitch is also very future-focused. Shear said that the evolution of games is moving towards more rich and powerful experiences on mobile and virtual reality devices like Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.
Shear and Twitch COO Kevin Lin said that we could soon experience other people play games on Oculus, because advances in virtual reality are occurring at such a high rate. One could experience virtual reality gaming through an auditorium-style experience, watching with other people, or even as if you were the main character in a first-person shooter game.
Advancements are happening in mobile gaming as well. Although watching someone else engage in a game of Flappy Bird may not sound as appealing, Shear said that mobile multiplayer game Clash of Clans is already drawing big numbers on Twitch, and he expects the numbers to continue to grow.
Shear and Lin stressed that they want the best experiences for their audience, and they are excited about all of the changes to come.
As for Amazon, the big question for the Twitch guys was if partnering with Amazon would turn Twitch into a glorified storefront. To that, they said, “No.”
“We’re not going to be an Amazon storefront,” said Shear. “Changing Twitch into a storefront is the last thing that we want, and it’s the last thing that Amazon wants.”
Twitch is looking for potential ways to work with Amazon that promote synergy.
“It’s not like the transaction happened so now we have to do x, y, and z,” says Shear. “But now we have the opportunity to do things we couldn’t before.”
And for those who are concerned that Twitch is going to become a native advertising platform, with buttons all over the site that will add games straight to your cart?
“We already are a native advertising for gaming,” says Shear. “Our entire website is native advertising for games.”