What does Amazon want with Twitch?

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It looked like Google has sealed the deal, but the announcement of Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch for nearly $1 billion certainly surprised a few commentators. This came just a few weeks after the end of the Dota 2 tournament – the International – which saw 11 teams compete for a record-breaking $10 million prize pool, all streamed live on Twitch.

Gaming’s reach as a visual – non-interactive – medium is expanding in all directions – including original programming (machinima), pre-recorded Let’s Plays, and live streaming. Amazon has been smart in muscling in on this growth area. In turn, Twitch’s offering has expanded to suit different members of the gaming community. At first, most viewers were watching out of curiosity for a particular game, or to learn strategies, but many different gaming sub-genres have also found their home on Twitch.

E-Sports is growing massively each year, and Twitch all but dominates this arena with numerous official broadcast partnerships. With Twitch streaming now native on Xbox One and PS4, console live streams are in growth. The Twitch app has 10 million installs and as the mobile market continues to grow, it probably won’t be long until people are sharing their streams and tips on Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga. Twitch has managed to attract a wide range of players – from nostalgia gamers to speed runners.

Amazon has been quietly making acquisitions in the gaming field for years, starting with its purchase of Reflexive Entertainment back in 2008. Things have been building up regularly since then, with its app store launching in 2011, Amazon Game Studios setting up shop in 2012 and the purchase of another games studio – Double Helix – earlier this year. Their ‘Fire TV‘ platform (with optional gaming controller) released earlier this week in Europe, and its game offerings include Minecraft and The Walking Dead. This will see Amazon coming head to head with the offerings of Google’s Chromecast and Apple TV in the battle of the set box tops.

Amazon’s hands-off approach and strong infrastructure should help keep gamers happy, and Twitch gains a big bucket of cash to take it to the next level and a wealth of experience too. In turn with Twitch, Amazon gains both a huge asset in its video game business and its wider digital media empire – and of course gets one over Google.

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