Lessons Learned from TwitchCon 2016

This is the type of thing I usually take notes on, internalize, and apply to my life/business/etc. But I figured there were a few lessons learned that would be of value to others and that it was worth sharing. So here are a few of the lessons I learned from attending TwitchCon 2016.

1. Esports is very, very, small in the grand scheme of Twitch

I knew that esports wasn't the majority of viewership eyes, ears, and hours on Twitch. What I didn't realize was that it's not even close-- I'm talking a small fraction of what even I thought it was. There was an esports lounge that sat maybe 100 people at max, and it was never more than 50 people deep. 

There were professional players from a variety of different games that were walking around the venue by themselves, and completely unrecognized by any of the thousands of passing people. Players that would be SWARMED elsewhere just strolling by, enjoying (or hating?) their brief  anonymity as they went. 

It wasn't only the professional players that were able to walk as if in the shadows-- there were professional MMA fighters including Rampage Jackson and Demetrious Mighty Mouse Johnson walking around, again, relatively peacefully. It blew my mind. It was pretty cool to meet and shake Rampage's hand though-- super cool dude, and I've watched him fight since I first got into MMA many years ago. Not relevant, but wanted to share anyways. 

The sessions, panels, content, exhibit booths, and so on reinforced this through and through. Esports are great, and we love them dearly. That being said, there are substantially more eyes elsewhere, and that was surprising to me. 

2. Twitch & Amazon are amazing companies 

Nothing too much to elaborate on here. Just stating what I believe to be true.

3. There are 17,000 partners out of over 2,000,000 streamers (in 2016)

I knew being a Twitch partner had value, but I didn't realize how "special" it made me. Because of my partnership status, I was able to access "VIP Lounge" type of areas, despite clearly being one of the smallest fish in the Twitch ocean at the event itself.

It took my a while to wrap my head around that. 

4. While the band has many members, only a few are actual rock stars

Most of the time I personally spend on Twitch is watching competition, with the occasional casual stream purely for entertainment value. So when someone I was with would point out one of these "rock stars", my response almost every time was "Who?".

But more surprising than that was the size of the gap between the "rock stars" and the "popular band members"; it's MASSIVE.

People who I thought had big streams and branding (from my point of view, coming from a CS:GO background) like mOE had a total of 2 people come up to him in the 3-4 times I met up with him to chat (for 5-10 minutes each time, roughly). That blew my mind. 

On the other hand, streamers that I had never even heard of had gigantic lines of people waiting to meet them, take pictures with them, get their autographs, etc. It showed me just how "out of the loop" on the rock stars I was, and how those who I thought would be in that group of people, truly weren't. 

I'm applying this lesson by learning who some of these big names are, and attempting to reverse engineering their rise to current status-- as I'm sure it has almost nothing to do with competitive greatness, but rather more along the lines of pure entertainment value and variety.

5. Most streamers don't know what they're doing when it comes to finances and taxes

One of the rare GOOD sessions I attended was on the topic of tax write-offs for professional streamers. There was more information in the session than I could summarize here, but if you are a streamer or someone who makes a significant portion of your money through streaming (or are hoping to, anyways), I'd strongly advise you to do your diligence and even consider the services of a tax professional. Email me if you want a few names. 

6. The Ecosystem around Twitch is growing rapidly, the business opportunities are plentiful 

I didn't get to attend the event last year, so i couldn't "eyeball" the growth from one exhibit hall of sponsors to this year's, but I did spend a lot of time walking around and interacting with the various "supporting" ecosystem players. 

Most of the messaging was around improving overall viewership engagement and stream production value/quality. There were companies there with audio products like streamer-targeted microphones, some with "viewer benefit" programs and software, and some that even blended my previous career into the current one-- which were "cloud based" streaming solutions. Or something like that. 

I have an expansive technology skill set, but the one skill set that I don't have is that of a developer. I mention that because if I did have those skills, I'd be exploring nearly endless opportunities in the world of Twitch, the streamers/broadcasters, the viewer analytics and engagement service options, and so on. 

In closing, it was a good event. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was a great event, as many of the sessions I attended were dismal and not valuable/informative to me. However, as is the case with almost any experience in life, there were lessons to be learned, and maybe some of the ones listed here are of value to you. 

If TwitchCon doesn't overlap any events next year, I'll probably be back. 

-Ryu