Between its low subscriber revenue split and controversial moderation decisions in 2022, Twitch slowly fell out of favor with the streaming community. While the Amazon-owned platform is still the dominant force in the space (although not at VTubing's tippity top), streamers and viewers started looking elsewhere for their new home.
However, Twitch has launched a major effort to lure them back in 2023.
In a January 25 open letter, Chief Product Officer Tom Verrilli and Chief Monetization Officer Mike Minton opened up on Twitch’s plans for the year, promising some big changes to revenue, discoverability, and engagement after a tumultuous 2022.
Twitch intends on doubling down with the controversial ads incentive program in an attempt to make it “easier and more flexible” for creators. This includes more variety in offers, as well as giving users back a truly ad-free experience with Twitch Turbo. Divisive pre-roll ads will be disabled on an hourly basis rather than every 30 minutes, and the ability to “snooze” mid-roll ads is on its way.
There’s also no news of a subscriber revenue split increase from the 50/50 laid out to creators late in 2022.
However, the platform is promising plenty in the way of big features, rivaling its main competitor in YouTube.
This includes “more options to earn”, such as Sound Bites “that allow viewers to pay to interact with and support their favorite streamers”, building a proper sponsorship solution in-client, and reimagining SUBtember on a more local scale “that help boost support from your viewers and give you a chance to get extra prizes on top of that.”
Twitch will be launching tools to help export clips for YouTube Shorts and TikTok with a vertical video editor, and also better promote streamers with Pinned Clips platform-wide and the Upcoming Streams schedule now launching on mobile.
The platform also promised better tools for discoverability with permanent tag URLs, a seamless scroll experience on mobile. Better analytics, and a bigger emphasis on highlighting dedicated viewers were mentioned too.
However, is it enough to keep VTubers—who have a considerable market share on the platform with the medium’s tag cracking the top five in 2022—on Twitch?
Emi, also known as Pwuppygf on Twitch, thinks the changes are a step in the right direction, especially when it comes to short-form content.
"As someone whose primary growth is through short form content, I'm excited to see the tools Twitch will be giving us," she said. "I would like to see them introduce an editor role along with it, so editors could have an easier time producing content."
"I think Twitch has done a really good job looking at the current market and seeing what can improve their own platform."
This optimism is somewhat shared by streamer and artist Synical, albeit more cautiously. But she has spoken openly about the need for creators to diversify, and has been more critical of Twitch’s subscriber revenue split.
"Everyone who I have spoken to about these implementations all agree that they're missing the elephant in the room—the revenue [split] hurts big content creators just as much as small ones."
"I just hope that Twitch does something about this before it becomes nonoptimal to use Twitch as a streaming platform altogether."
"In regards to Twitch's new ways to earn, I feel like some of this can be promising if Twitch follows through. I think it's best to wait it out and see how Twitch will actually implement these ideas."
Twitch partner VTuber Yami was blunt in his assessment: "Twitch is digging their own grave. The entire new 2023 road map isn't addressing the real issues the platform has knowingly created."
"I'm very concerned regarding Twitch's ongoing focus on squeezing as much money from their creators as possible. They constantly devalue our work, take larger cuts and pressure us into running more ads. To save money, Twitch partners didn't even get a Partner swag gift this year. Our gift was more ads and less of a cut."
"The core issue that is killing the site is that Twitch is built around the top 5,000 streamers on the platform. The system that is in place is to push and promote them, and leave everyone else to the sidelines."
"The idea of a fair chance is the main missing component of Twitch, and is not addressed. To be on Twitch, you have to accept that the game isn't fair, and be willing to fight a very steep uphill struggle. Leave if you don't want to do it."
There are highlights in the open letter each creator has individually pointed out. Changes to pre-roll ads and editing tools are seen as a huge plus. Better analytics tools can help streamers better cater broadcasts for their audience.
But the implementation of these features is a big thing highlighted by all VTubers. Twitch has delayed many features in the past, and falling short of lofty goals would only increase community ire towards the Amazon-owned service.
"If Twitch fails to produce the majority of these, in my opinion, much needed features, I feel a lot of creators will switch to a competitor," Emi warned.
"This would be a huge breach of trust in the platform," Synical added. "Making empty promises always ends up hurting users' trust."
Twitch still has a stranglehold on the streaming market. YouTube, while growing, has its own set of issues that have many hesitant to make the switch. Even if the pains of 2022 continue into 2023, it "won’t be going away anytime soon" in the words of Emi.
"They've had a near monopoly on streaming for over a decade, but with it becoming so mainstream, it brings competitors. All the changes and features they've talked about today seem very promising in creating a better user experience, and with their addition of short-form content I think 2023 can be a very good year for Twitch."
But it could all start crumbling down without open communication. The platform has promised more conversation in 2023, but there’s a little hesitancy over whether it’ll just be lip service yet again.
"I feel that if Twitch really wants to make some waves in the streaming and content creation community as a whole, they should start listening to their target demographic," Synical said. "Time and time again I see Twitch come out with these ideas but not actually addressing any of the problems on the platform."
"I think there isn't much confidence left in Twitch," Yami added. "The writing on the wall in my sphere is most people seem to wait for YouTube to implement better chatting functions and raids, and Twitch will see most of their creators moving over."
"It's not too late to save the platform, but they're not addressing the actual issues."
"The way I see it, Twitch needs to create a better user experience for the audience, push more talented creators, pay their creators more for their hundreds or thousands of hours of work, and chill with the ads."