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Research suggests Twitch streams really do lead to increased game sales

3 min read

Punch club

We all know that engagement is important. It’s a word I don’t always like because it feels like marketing or PR terminology that eventually is used so much that it stops meaning anything. But for now, it makes sense – if people are interested in your game, and want to talk about it, watch other people play it, and are aware and engaged with it enough, they will play it, and play it for a while. Twitch is apparently an important part of that, and new research points developers and studios towards the platform with the promise that their sales will increase… never mind the fact that the research was done by a Twitch employee.

I found that when a Steam connected viewer watched a game on Twitch, their odds of purchasing the game within 24 hours went up substantially,” Hernandez wrote. “So I attribute purchases that fit this ‘watch then buy’ pattern to Twitch.

The research looked at an example of TinyBuild’s Punch Club. When it launched the game, it had a novel approach – the game would be released when the people in chat beat the game. So think Twitch plays but with an actual end goal or reward. Within six weeks, 1.2 million viewers watch Punch Club on Twitch, leading 2.8% of Steam-connected viewers to buy the game:

Given the assumption that steam connected viewers, 0.53 percent of views, behave similarly to Twitch’s global viewership, I estimate 25 percent of Punch Club sales are directly attributable to Twitch.

That’s not too surprising – watching games on Twitch is sort of like going to a friend’s house and watching them play something. If it looks really cool, you’ll probably want to go buy it, too. However, the interesting finding from the research is that smaller channels actually lead to more conversions than the massive channels.

Hernandez concluded that 46 percent of sales to broadcasters that average between 33 and 3,333 concurrent viewers on Twitch. This is because, he believes, smaller channels are more like your friend’s couch and less like a stadium.
He said mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters. Small broadcasters convert views into purchases 1000 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters.

It’s not that Twitch simply reminds your potential buyers that a game exists, or the bigger broadcasters would be more likely to make people buy. It seems that the engagement and fun times people have interacting with their favorite broadcasters while they play a cool looking game makes them more likely to purchase it for themselves.

Of course the research concludes that all developers and studios should take a “Stream First” approach to get gamers involved and interested, something I’d take with a bit of caution considering that this guy is researching on behalf of Twitch and would obviously like more games to focus on their Twitch interactions. However, it is really interesting to see that watching a stream can help boost sales. While this might not be true for all games, it certainly is intriguing. It’s almost as if demos have been replaced by let’s plays – giving gamers the chance to see what a game is about without needing to fork out the cash.

I still need to get into watching Twitch streams – they just generally haven’t lured me in as of yet. Do you have favorite streamers? Who you would recommend?


Last Updated: July 14, 2016

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