TwitchCon is a wrap, and we’re bummed. This was our first TC but now I can’t imagine it being our last. I personally went into the event not really knowing what to expect, but I was hoping to meet some interesting folks, learn a few things, and maybe grab a few pics of the people who’d been so kindly providing me with free entertainment over the past few years.

TwitchCon is a wrap, and we’re bummed. This was our first TC but now I can’t imagine it being our last. I personally went into the event not really knowing what to expect, but I was hoping to meet some interesting folks, learn a few things, and maybe grab a few pics of the people who’d been so kindly providing me with free entertainment over the past few years.

Leading up to TC I Googled around to see what people had to say about the 2015 event in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the VOD content from the streamers was some of the most helpful. I remember really wanting to make the trip to the west coast last year but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I don’t think that will be a problem for 2017.

But that was last year, and last year was years ago. Here’s the StreamKick top 5 takeaways from TwitchCon 2016:

1. It’s all about community

It was clear from the start that Twitch has embraced the community that has developed around the platform. It’s easy to think of viewers simply as an audience but with the Twitch platform there’s a deeper relationship that exists between the broadcaster and that audience.

I have no idea how I missed this but there are regional Twitch communities that were well represented in San Diego. The Arizona and Orlando contingents were active on Twitter heading into the event, rallying their members for various events and inviting others to join. And there are plenty more out there so check to see if there’s one in your area. A quick search on Twitter should turn them up.

Attendees lining up for day one of the streamer meet and greet at TwitchCon 2016

Streamer meet and greet day 1

We met loads of streamers that were incredibly passionate about the communities they’d built around their channels. It was exciting and encouraging to see their enthusiasm for streaming and entertaining people. Consider for a minute the majority of them weren’t partnered or sponsored so it’s a true labor of love for them. Viewers are choosing to spend their free time being a part of these communities so it’s truly a two-way street. That sort of thing isn’t artificial.

Esports enthusiasts gather for a match of Overwatch at TwitchCon 2016

Pre-match crowd gathers for the Overwatch throwdown

2. Game dev studios are taking streaming very seriously

I’ve been saying for the past couple of years how disappointingly slow game development studios have been to embrace streaming. And when they have it always seems more like a casual nod than an attempt at any sort of actual integration. Take Rust for example. Last year, Facepunch Studios introduced “streamer mode”, potentially saving streamers from losing hours of grinding to stream snipers.

That’s changing...quickly. Two games caught my eye at TwitchCon. The first is Shardbound from Spiritwalk Games. Taking a note directly from the game’s website, it’s “built to stream”. According to Spiritwalk, viewers will be able to interact with the streamer in game, assisting him or her in progressing through the game while benefiting personally as well. Twitch is so excited about this they invited Spiritwalk’s CEO on stage during the keynote to unveil the game.

LED display of live matches at the Shardbound stand at TwitchCon 2016

Shardbound booth drew the crowd...myself included

Next is Streamline, from Proletariat. Streamline is a bit different because streaming is actually part of the game. The streamer plays along with the Twitch community at a separate site where viewer interaction is taken to a new level. Just...check it out.

The point is, it’s not solely about marketing a big budget upcoming title any more. That’s always going to happen but this new direction is incredibly exciting.

More on Streamline and Shardbound in my new games from TwitchCon rundown.

Shoutcasters at the Battlefield 1 stand in the Xbox zone at TwitchCon 2016

Battlefield 1 shoutcast booth because #esportsarerealsports

3. It’s not all about being partnered

It’s fairly common knowledge that the majority of Twitch streamers are not partnered. Many - maybe most - have made this a goal but I didn’t get the impression it mattered that much to most streamers.

Of the 80+ panels, events, sessions, etc., there was a grand total of 1 (one) focused on getting partnered. However there are many focused on growing an audience, building a community, and connecting with viewers and other streamers.

The lesson? Streamers should focus on organic growth first, and partnership will come in due time. In other words, it should be earned. I attended the partnership panel and it was clear some of the biggest streamers started because they loved gaming and the audience made it that much more fun.

However, there were companies in the expo hall with interesting ideas on how to ease the transition from casual streamer to partner. GameWisp caught my eye with their “subscription tools for streamers”. Basically you can set up sub tiers with their platform regardless if you’re partnered or not. They take a small cut but the streamer is in total control. Not a bad way to make a buck or two along the way.

Charity streaming, already a major focus for some, was well represented. There were about a dozen or so different companies or organizations in the Charity Plaza and we ran into quite a few charity streamers ourselves. This is a movement I think everyone would like to see grow.

4. Streaming is becoming more accessible

With everything that was going on it was easy to lose perspective. This is all still really new stuff. Twitch has made huge strides but streaming and all it entails is far more about long-term evolution. That being said, anyone can stream...but not really. Hardware remains a major hurdle for some. Streaming is very CPU intensive and not everyone can simply upgrade or add a streaming PC to their set-up.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed, so companies like Skreens and LiquidSky were worth a look.

Skreens bills itself as a plug and play solution for streaming from just about any device you have. The streamer can then control the user experience via an app (Android and iOS) fairly easily from the demo I saw.

LiquidSky takes a different approach. They provide their users with a cloud gaming solution so that they can play the games they already own on a high-performance machine from any device. Basically imagine playing Battlefield on a lousy laptop with a decent internet connection and getting better performance than on your gaming PC.

The community will ultimately decide if this is the right approach but the big takeaway was, regardless which direction this takes, streaming is opening up to a larger subset of the community and that’s a good thing. However, more content choices over time begs for a better way to discover the streamers people will enjoy the most.

5. Twitch Creative isn’t playing…

...they’re drawing, and painting, and sculpting, and doing all the things I’ll never be good at but love to watch other people do. They were represented in force at TwitchCon with over 20 creators covering a huge range of skill sets in the Creative Corner.

About a month before TC I was watching a sculptor’s stream and he was chatting up his audience about the event. He was apprehensive about how much value he’d get from being there but if what I saw was any indication, they all did just fine.

I could try to describe what I saw, but that wouldn’t be fair to the talent that was represented. Instead, have a look at some pics I grabbed and definitely, if you haven’t, check these people out.

Artists putting finishing touches on one of the wall murals in the Creative Corner at TwitchCon 2016

Creative Corner tag wall developing over the weekend

TwitchCon attendees browsing creative works for sale in the Creative Corner at TwitchCon 2016

Games? It ain't all about the games...

Counting down to TwitchCon 2017

There was a lot that happened at TwitchCon this year and there’s really no substitute for just being there. If you’re reading this in 2017 wondering if you should go to TwitchCon, just go. I read the recaps and I watched the VODs but nothing did the event any real justice. It’s just a lot of fun no matter how you enjoy Twitch, or video games, or whatever you’re in to.

I was hearing an attendance figure of about 40,000 being tossed around by folks in San Diego, which I think is about double what they saw in 2015. That’s huge, and this thing is showing no signs of slowing. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this community and we’re eagerly looking forward to another year of live streaming shenanigans.

Our only request for TwitchCon in 2017 - east coast, plz? Kappa

Evening in the historic heart of San Diego after day one of TwitchCon 2016

Thanks, San Diego!

Want more?

The folks over at StreamerNews and Nikitheliger compiled this awesome recap of the panels at TwitchCon. I can’t recommend strongly enough checking this out if you’re serious about this platform.