In an unexpected turn of events, Amazon has purchased Twitch.TV for the low, low price of $970 million, making this the largest purchase junior overlords Amazon has made to date. I say unexpected, because everyone had their eye on senior overlords Google, who was expected to make the Twitch purchase. The rumors surrounding Google's now non-existing purchase were met with mixed reviews. Some folks didn't like what they've done with YouTube. Some feel they feel that Google hasn't figured out the direction YouTube is going in yet. Others just praise our overlords, happy that it's at least Google and not something else.
News reports of this story keep mentioning that Amazon has a game development studio out of their Seattle office, mostly for their Android-based Fire gadgets. However, I think these news outlets are missing the mark, or probably just have no idea about gaming (Bloomberg headline: “Has Amazon Bought The Next ESPN?” – obviously they do not understand gaming). I cannot imagine that mobile gaming streamed on Twitch as a big thing. Most people I know who watch streams are for collaborative games: MOBAs, MMORPGs and other cooperative play type of games. My conclusion here is that these people reporting the news just read “games” without worry as to what kind of games, so they're assuming that Twitch fits snugly under Amazon's umbrella because Amazon is in the mobile space. While it's true that Amazon could very well be gearing itself up into producing games worth streaming, I'm not ready to jump that gun yet. They will need something more than a couple mobile friendly Facebook games to make me see the crossover.
Will we see targeted ads come to Twitch? While Google reigns supreme over targeted ads, Amazon's marketing emails can be pretty on the money. Unless you're like me, and you're always clicking on weird things a friend sends you, because something on Reddit was hilarious, or you just end up in an internet black hole without any idea how you got there. For me, Amazon's marketing emails can be pretty hit or miss (80% hit, 20% miss so far, so you know I click those with wild abandon), but I know others never dare look at them, because the targeting is just that good.
Here's an image of Chicago's Humboldt Park at sunset to break up the monotony of all this text. It has nothing to do with this article.
How is the community responding to all of this? No matter what Amazon wants to do, without community support behind Twitch, it could be a very expensive bad idea, especially with other names trying to become competitors of Twitch (MLG.tv to name one). The answer might surprise you: a lot of the community is responding positively, as Amazon in general has left its acquisitions alone. While a Google acquisition could have possibly meant that Twitch would have been integrated into its ecosystem, or even possibly shuffled in and out of several iterations before Google figured out what to do with Twitch, people are hoping that Amazon means Twitch gets to stay Twitch, but with better resources. Considering the popularity of Twitch and how Amazon is barely in the games-space, I can only hope that this is the route that they will choose to go.
What does this mean for the rest of us? I think it's a good thing. Google now has big name competition, versus its ownership of streaming via YouTube and Hangouts. I think out of any possible acquisition, Amazon will give Google the best run for its money, even if they don't end up getting into the games-space. Google hasn't and it's been pretty successful, even if people don't understand where they're going with YouTube, Google+, and Hangouts. Google can afford to try things out while confusing the hell out of its customer base. Televised gaming, even if we're talking streams here, is in its infancy and has a long way to grow. I predict that other channels pop up and take hold. I do disagree with Bloomberg by calling Twitch the next ESPN. However, I will say that Twitch is helping legitimize esports, which will make ESPN want to do their own version of livestreaming for more tournaments.
If Amazon doesn't break into the games-space in any meaningful manner, what will Twitch bring to them? Any predictions on how Twitch can give new hooks into parts of Amazon that are already established, such as Prime Instant? What do you think of Amazon's acquisition? Do you think Twitch would have been better off selling to Google? Do you think Twitch could broaden its horizons to bring more to the table than just being a huge name in gaming?