Twitch is shedding employees and talent. Conversations about the platform are mired in scandals about deepfake porn and gambling. It’s the perfect time, in other words, for the Amazon-owned streaming platform to go on the offensive and pretend things have never been better.
In a recent interview with The Verge, chief product officer Tom Verrilli said exactly that. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to start streaming on Twitch,” he told the outlet. Verrilli and chief monetization officer Mike Minton went on to explain how the platform is working on new ways to help creators make more money, despite controversially slashing the revenue split for some of Twitch’s biggest names last fall.
“We talked a lot about how we’re in this together, and part of that is innovation,” Minton told The Verge. “We are committed to continuing to improve our monetization products and building new monetization products, and at the end of the day, we are committed to increasing the amount of money a streamer earns.”
This includes changes to the ad incentive program to make it less intrusive and let creators turn it on and off more quickly, as well as new features to help streamers grow their audience and be more interactive, like a “guest star” feature to co-stream with other creators who appear in their Twitch chats. But it’s far from clear that these tweaks will be enough to stem the tide of departures or bad will. A couple streamers immediately pushed back on Twitter:
In 2021, the platform lost big names like DrLupo, TimTheTatman, and Ludwig. Last year it lost even more, including Myth, Sykkuno, and LilyPichu. FaZe Swagg left last September after signing an exclusive agreement with YouTube Gaming, where the Call of Duty: Warzone streamer has over 2.7 million subscribers. Fuslie left the same month, citing exhaustion with Twitch’s DMCA policies and claiming that YouTube made it easier to manage accidental violations in older content.
The Google-owned platform has been aggressive in courting content creators, offering some streamers lucrative deals and others generous ad revenue shares. At the same time, Twitch is battling the perception it’s gotten greedy after blaming shifting revenue splits last year on higher cloud-computing fees being charged by its parent company, Amazon.
It’s also faced ongoing scrutiny over safety, incentives, and the ethical lapses of remaining stars. Bloomberg reported last year on vulnerabilities that allowed Twitch to be used to sexually prey on minors. After big names like Pokimane threatened a strike over gambling sponsorships and exploitative scams, Twitch acted late to finally ban them from the platform. (Pokimane is now streaming less frequently, and focusing more on TikTok).
After Brandon “Atrioc” Ewing revealed in January that he viewed explicit deepfake content of women streamers, it set off the platform’s latest firestorm. Some streamers faced what were essentially ransom demands in order to have deepfake content based on data stolen from their streams removed from the internet. It wasn’t until a month later that Twitch officially acknowledged the issue, and announced a workshop to “help protect women streamers.”
If all of this didn’t cause the platform’s leadership to take a beat, do some soul searching, and perhaps offer a more substantive response to the challenges it and its creators face, you’d think the sudden departure of longtime CEO Emmett Shear and the announcement of 400 layoffs might have. At the end of the day, Twitch taking 50 percent of all creator revenue is predicated on it providing value beyond just the servers that stream the data. Streamers seem far from convinced that Twitch is delivering on that promise.