Twitch has introduced the “Cheering” program today to the largest partners before rolling the program out to all partnered Twitch streamers. “Cheering” is a built-in ‘tip’ feature that will allow viewers to tip their favorite broadcasters various sums of money using “Bits” that they can purchase from Twitch via Amazon Payments. As a viewer incentive to “Cheer” on your favorite streamer is to give support, earn badges, and draw attention to what ever your message is to the streamer. As a caster, the “Bits” you receive are safer than receiving PayPal donations which could be charged back by nefarious users. While this might seem like a win-win situation to some, we should delve into a few issues that may come with the introduction of microtransactions on Twitch.
Problem 1 – Cheering Might Undercut Content Creators
Twitch’s partnership program at its entry partnership contract allows content creators to take 50% of the cut from subscriptions; larger content creators are able to negotiate percentages and may get more or less. We have yet to learn what entry level partners will earn from “Bits” that are tipped to them using the “Cheering” functionality. We also don’t know yet if streamers will be able to opt-out of the “Cheering” program and if Twitch will start enforcing policies to weed out competitors like PayPal/TwitchAlerts in order to push users to using Amazon Payments and their built-in service. It’s fair for content creators to demand an answer from Twitch regarding their policies towards opting-out of “Cheering” and their policies towards other payment processors in the future.
While some might defend it as added protection from chargebacks, it may also undercut streamers who would rather use PayPal and risk chargebacks. Let’s run through a possible scenario.
Viewer A “Cheers” their Streamer, Bob $5 in “Bits” – Twitch takes 50% and Streamer Bob earns $2.50
Viewer B donates $5 via PayPal – Streamer Bob earns $4.55
You can see where some people might start questioning the intentions of the “Cheering” program.
Problem 2 – The Elephant in the Room
Bits and Cheering renders some similarity to adult websites. It uses the same built-in functionality, flashy images and incentives to tip as these websites (content creators attention!). Twitch has already faced criticism from the community when partnering former pornographic cam site models, and this step will embolden the loudest critics.
While most streamers have already used programs like Twitch Alerts to alert them whenever someone donated money, the built-in system from Twitch makes the site feel like a “Cam Site” rather than a site to just watch content creators play video games, I think this is a not-so favorable direction for Twitch to go.
Problem 3 – Animations
The animations behind the “Cheering” program strayed away from the slick or modern feel. The look and feel may not fit in with many content creators themes, layouts, and subscriber emotes. Unless partners are allowed to customize the animations associated with “Cheering”, the program might end up being an annoyance to some viewers.
Problem 4 – Where Does It End?
The microtransactions currency name is “Bits”, leading me to believe that “Cheers” will not be the only thing you will be able to purchase with this new currency. Some speculations that may be of concern, will viewers have to start paying “Bits” for special emotes outside of subscriber and ‘Turbo’ emotes? Will viewers have to start paying in “Bits” to access specific streams and events? These are things to ponder over as Twitch moves towards becoming more profitable, how big of an impact are microtransactions going to play into our viewing experience on Twitch.
Positives – Content Creators can be Protected
There are some positives to highlight before accusations of this article become all doom and gloom. Larger content creators may now be protected from predatory viewers who donate large sums of money and then suddenly reverse their transactions. Chargebacks are a huge hassle to deal with and content creators who have not experienced the pain of dealing with PayPal and their horrible payment dispute process may be able to rest easy when they receive large tips. The “Cheering” program will also protect content creators personal information and may also make tax season easier for those who rely on Twitch as their primary source of income, as all their business tax information will come from Twitch, rather than PayPal/Twitch or what other processor the content creator takes.
All in all, it’ll be interesting to see where Twitch goes with “Cheering” and its microtransactions; Let’s hope we don’t see the site and content become negatively affected by these changes.