We posted back in February that Twitch would start selling games directly through the website. A couple months and a Twitch application later, you actually can buy games on Twitch. The basics of buying games on Twitch were announced early on and, for the most part, have remained the same. Twitch has partnered with several companies to offer games directly through Twitch. For the case of this example, let’s use Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Since The Walking Dead is available through Twitch, whenever someone is streaming it, under their video will be a “Buy Now” button. If you spend more than $4.99 on any game or in-game item through Twitch, you get a Twitch Crate which has a range of things from chat badges, emotes, to bits even. If you’re a partnered broadcaster and someone buys something from your channel, you get 5% from that purchase, so long as you have opted in via your Partner Settings. Your game purchase will appear in your Twitch Desktop App (or whatever third party app it requires, like Ubisoft’s Uplay) to download and play. Some of the partnered companies have free-to-play games, like Trion’s offering or Warframe, in which case the things available for purchase are in-game add-ons or premium currency. To sweeten the pot a little, Twitch is running a giveaway of various gaming peripherals and you can enter with Twitch Crates.
Let’s talk about some of the reception buying games on Twitch has gotten since the announcement a couple months back. My knee-jerk reaction was that since some of the money goes back to the streamer, this can’t really be that bad however that’s kind of where things stop being good for me. The Twitch Desktop App doesn’t have a store or anything yet so connecting the idea of buying games and the Twitch client is a little difficult. You can just go to a game page on Twitch and buy the game but then you’re bypassing supporting a streamer. This mostly comes up because convincing people to buy games on something that isn’t Steam is a big initial hurdle to jump over and if I barely think of your platform as a store in the first place, I’m not very likely to want games from you. And then there’s a lot of compromise-related issues. If you’re playing The Walking Dead, for instance, and right on your channel is a “Buy Now” button that also gives you money, it’s hard to expect your viewers to think you’re not compromised. No matter how critical you are, no matter how unbiased you try to be, it’s not hard to connect these dots. Unfortunately, there’s no way to opt-out of having the “Buy Now” button so if you do have any problems with it, there’s nothing you can do about it.
From here, I just have a lot of questions. We haven’t had a Twitch Prime offering yet but what happens when we do? Does the “Buy Now” button become a “Get it for free*(With Twitch Prime)” button? Will they ever extend the monetization tools to non-partners? A tier between non-partners and full-on partners perhaps since we can’t take the button off entirely. If it’s going to be there anyway, can we make it a panel or something so it can have some style (The answer is definitely no because UX but, you know, let’s ask the question)? Will season passes and DLC be available from Twitch? In cases where games offer multiple items, can I specify the item that appears on the channel? Maybe the essentials pack is really all that matters and the free-to-play currency isn’t as worthwhile. Am I not afforded some editorializing via this “Buy Now” button?
A lot of this is potentially being overly critical of a feature that’s been live for just a few hours. Even in the few cases where the game is available through Twitch, any more money that can go to the streamer is beneficial, as small as that bump might be. This also could potentially add more to the buying experience for everyone involved. In a lot of situations, you might not feel anything when buying a game at any other store but if you buy it on Twitch, you could be directly benefiting someone you watch on a regular basis not only with the 5% off the purchase but also, potentially, with bits from your Crate. If you want to learn more about buying games on Twitch or if you want to see a more complete list of the current offering check it out directly on the Twitch Blog.