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Twitch Is Turning Into The Netflix Of Spectator Gaming

By all accounts, the world’s largest video network for gamers—and the lucrative arena of competitive gaming that it powers—is on a path to colossal growth.

Twitch, a social platform where users can watch, play, record and livecast gameplay, has historically been more associated with PC gaming due to the relatively closed ecosystems of consoles like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. But in the brave new era of console gaming, that’s all changed—and it could spell big things (and bigger money) for the emerging world of video games as spectator sport.

With a recent update that deeply integrated the Twitch app into Microsoft’s Xbox One, the service is woven deeply into the next generation console experience—and Twitch users are proving enthusiastic about its new home. According to a blog post from the Xbox team, Twitch shared the launch success of Titanfall, crown jewel of the Xbox One: During its first day in the wild, the new Twitch Xbox One app accounted for 30% of all Twitch broadcasts.

Xbox One streaming continued to account for 22% of Twitch’s unique broadcasts, which run for an average of 28 minutes, in the week following its launch. Over three weeks in March, Twitch users streamed upwards of 10 million minutes of Titanfall from the Xbox One—much of it, most likely, to Xbox 360 owners dismayed at the game’s delay for their own console.

The Netflix Of Gaming

The second week of March saw the simultaneous launch of Titanfall and native support for the Twitch app’s live broadcasting on the Xbox One. Both Twitch and Microsoft are reaping the newly invigorated console’s rewards.

Out of the gate, the PlayStation 4 consistently led Microsoft’s pricier console in sales. While the PS4 has offered Twitch live broadcasting for longer, its gamers were slower to adopt it.

“Microsoft has a put a lot of time and effort into ensuring their Twitch integration would be a robust experience, and based on the amount of Xbox One owners streaming from their living rooms, the move paid off,” said Twitch COO Kevin Lin. “This high rate of adoption for our console integrations has elevated our role in the entertainment industry. People go to Hulu to watch TV, Netflix to watch movies, and now they go to Twitch to watch and broadcast video games.”

Twitch Is Taking Off

Like those services, Twitch is quickly proving its mainstream appeal, recently beating out Hulu in a measure of peak web traffic. Twitch ranked fourth, respectably trailing heavyweights Netflix, Google and Apple. Hulu remains mum on overall monthly user numbers (generally not a good sign), but noted a year ago that it had grown to 4 million paying Hulu Plus subscribers.

To recap Twitch’s rise:

According to new statistics from the last year, Twitch users watched 12 billion minutes of gaming on average each month in 2013. Twitch boasted 45 million unique viewers per month, which was more than double number of viewers tuning into Twitch on a monthly basis in the year prior. What’s more impressive: More than half of all users (58%) spend more than 20 hours a week on Twitch, while the average user watches an average of 106 minutes a day.

Twitch On Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4

There are a few noteworthy differences between Twitch’s deep integration on the PS4 and Xbox One. On the PS4, a share button on the controller itself starts an instant gameplay stream. On the Xbox One, a quick Kinect voice command (“Xbox, broadcast”) triggers the same event.

In spite of a delayed introduction, the Xbox One may have a leg up for Twitch enthusiasts thanks to reportedly higher resolution streaming and the availability of a large broadcast archive. Twitch for the Xbox One also socializes things a bit, adding the option for viewers to hop into a party with whoever’s stream they’re watching. Built closely with Sony, the PS4 Twitch app restricts users to only viewing streams from other PlayStation gamers.

The Evolution Of Social Gaming

Handing over the controller and watching a friend play has long been part of gaming culture. The rising phenomenon of video games as a spectator sport pumped the casual, couch-based practice of sharing the screen full of Redbull, handed it corporate sponsorships worth millions and beamed live gameplay around the world in real time.

Designed from the ground up to meet an increasingly voracious appetite for video games and streaming media, both Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are monsters of all-in-one entertainment consumption. Now that Twitch is baked deep into both consoles, it’s just as easy to create entertainment as it is to gobble it down.

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