streaming

Microsoft’s game streaming service Mixer adds more ways for streamers to make money

Posted by | game streaming, games, Gaming, Microsoft, mixer, streaming | No Comments

Microsoft today is rolling out a new version of its game streaming service, Mixer, which it’s calling “Season 2” to reflect the fact that the changes are ongoing, not a one-day release. The company says it’s specifically investing in new areas around expression, monetization and creator communities.

The first of these, called Skills, are focused on giving users more ways to participate in chats with stickers and GIFs, and other screen effects that remind you a bit of those you’d find on iMessage. For example, there are celebratory fireworks and confetti to be tossed around, as well as a beach ball that the community members can keep bouncing.

Streamers will like these, too, as it helps them make money.

“Every time you use a Skill on a partner’s channel, it supports that partner financially,” Microsoft says.

It also says the selection of Skills will be updated regularly, going forward.

Another addition is a way to support favorite streamers via “Sparks,” which are earned by watching streams. These can then be spent on Skills and help partnered streamers reach milestones that translate to cash payouts.

Some high-value Skills will be purchased using a new virtual currency, Mixer Embers. These are the next step up from Sparks, and gives fans’ favorite streamers direct financial rewards.

In 2019, Microsoft says it will also introduce the Mixer progression system, to better reflect a community member’s status, beyond just how much they’ve contributed financially. The system will reward a viewer’s engagement with a streamer’s community and Mixer as a whole, and allows members to “level up” by participating in chat, using Skills and earning Applause from others.

Mixer is also rolling out improved video capabilities with the enabling of automatic bitrate switching, more options for use of FTL streaming and the addition of a feature for reporting any video-specific issues.

Skills and Sparks Patronage on Mixer are live now, with Mixer Embers and Progression arriving in the weeks and months ahead.

The changes fall on the heels of Twitch’s annual conference, TwitchCon, where it announced its own set of new features, including new ways for streamers to grow, connect with their community and monetize. Standouts included the launch of group streaming and a karaoke game, as well as changes to badges, new moderation tools and the expansion of sponsored opportunities.

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YouTube is closing the gap with Twitch on live streaming, report finds

Posted by | Creators, games, Gaming, Live, live streaming, Media, streaming, streams, Twitch, YouTube | No Comments

Twitch continues to dominate the live streaming market, with approximately 2.5 billion hours watched by viewers in the third quarter of 2018, according to a new industry report out this morning. While YouTube still trails, it’s begun to close the gap with Twitch, it appears. YouTube’s live streaming platform, YouTube Live, started the year with 15 percent of the overall live streaming market’s viewership, but by September 2018, it had grown to roughly 25 percent of all live streaming hours viewed.

These findings, and more, were the subject of a “state of the industry” report released today by StreamElements, which also dug into what’s making these live streaming sites tick.

Of course, Twitch is still the market leader, with around 750 million monthly viewers, on average, who watched over 813 million hours in September. YouTube Live, by comparison, saw over 226 million hours that month, and Microsoft’s Mixer saw just 13+ million.

Also of note is that Twitch’s growth is now coming from the long tail, the report claims. Its top 100 channels haven’t grown much since the beginning of the year – in fact, they’re down a bit, according to the findings. In January 2018, viewers watch around 262 million hours on the top 100, which dropped to 254 million in September.

In addition, Twitch is growing viewership thanks to its expanded focus outside of gaming content. IRL streaming – meaning, watching creators “in real life” going about their day, vlogging, or participating in other activities, for example – is now one of the site’s most consistently growing categories, with 41 million more hours watched in Q3 2018 than in Q1.

This growth likely impacted Twitch’s recent decision to do away with the overarching “IRL” category to instead break down the content into subcategories like music, food & drink, ASMR, beauty, and more, and other organizational changes to its site.

StreamElements also claims that game streams and other content – but not the competitions known as “esports” –  are what’s attracting viewers.

Esports viewership now makes up 9 to 17 percent of overall Twitch viewership, the report says. (This is consistent with findings Newzoo has reported in past years, as well.)

The report’s data, however, is not first-party – it comes from StreamElements’ position as a production and community management solutions provider for live streamers, which allows it some insight into live streaming trends. The company also partnered with streaming analysts StreamHatchet to compile this report, it says.

That being said, it’s not the only one to point to YouTube’s more recent growth. In StreamLabs’ Q2 report this year, it also found that YouTube’s live gaming streams were on the rise, as was viewership. But StreamLabs tends to look at concurrent streams and viewership, so it’s not a direct comparison.

YouTube recently did away with its standalone YouTube Gaming app, and incorporated gaming content more directly into its main site. This could impact its future growth even more than is reflected in this Q3-focused report.

Finally, the report also found that Fortnite’s popularity may have peaked – it’s still the most watched game on Twitch, but since reaching over 151 million hours watched in July, it’s been shedding viewers. The game saw 20 million fewer hours viewed in August, then dropped by another 25 million hours in September.

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Spotify’s Premium app gets a big makeover

Posted by | Android, Apps, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, streaming, streaming service | No Comments

Spotify has given its app a big makeover, with a focus on making the experience better for its paying subscribers. The company has simplified the app’s navigation by reducing the numbers of buttons and has revamped its Search page, which now incorporates elements previously found in “Browse,” like favorite genres or music to match a mood. And it’s given its Radio service a redesign as well, with the addition of new and easy-to-use Artist Radio Playlists.

The most immediately noticeable change is the app’s navigation.

Spotify has always felt a bit cluttered, with its five navigation buttons – Home, Browse, Search, Radio and My Library. The new app has chopped this down to just three buttons – Home, Search, and My Library.

Recommendations will appear on the Home page, following the update, while discovery is powered by Search.

The Search page lets you seek out artists, albums and podcasts by typing in queries, as before. But the page is also now personalized, showing your own “Top Genres” beneath the search bar – like R&B, Rock, Hip-Hop, Kids & Family – or whatever else you listen to. This is helpful because users’ tastes can change over time, or they may share their individual Spotify account with others (instead of opting for a Family plan), which can garble their recommendations.

The “Browse” section has moved to this Search page in the redesign, and points to things like top charts, Spotify’s programmed playlists, your own personalized playlists, plus music by mood, genre, activity and more.

The Radio section got an overhaul, too.

With the update, you can search for a favorite artist or song, then immediately start listing to one of the brand-new Artist Radio playlists. These are personalized, endless streams based on your own tastes – and they’re updated regularly to stay fresh, Spotify notes.

This latter feature appears to address a recent challenge from Pandora, which tapped into its Music Genome to create dozens of personalized playlists for its users. Spotify, effectively, is turning its radio stations into personalized playlists now, too. Instead of asking users to thumbs up/down its selections, it will just create stations it knows you’ll like, based on the data it already has. These radio playlists also work offline, the company says.

The updated app for Premium users follows a redesign of the app for its free customers, announced back in April. That redesign made it easier for free users to access over a dozen playlists with songs on demand, which also included the option to skip tracks. It also reduced the number of tabs in the bottom navigation.

This week, the company also rolled out a new Android Wear application. Plus, the third-party manufacturer Mighty launched a new version of its Spotify player, which is basically an iPod Shuffle-like device that works with Spotify instead of Apple Music or iTunes.

The changes to the Spotify app comes at a time when the company is losing ground in North America to Apple. Pandora was just snatched up by Sirius XM for $3.5 billion, which could make for increased competition in the U.S., as well.

Spotify’s Premium Subscribers grew to 83 million in Q2 2018, and it has 180 million monthly actives, including free customers, which still puts it ahead of the competition, in terms of user base size.

Spotify says the redesign for Spotify Premium is rolling out to all Premium subscribers on iOS and Android globally starting today.

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Winamp returns in 2019 to whip the llama’s ass harder than ever

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Music, streaming, TC, Winamp | No Comments

The charmingly outdated media player Winamp is being reinvented as a platform-agnostic mobile audio app that brings together all your music, podcasts and streaming services to a single location. It’s an ambitious relaunch, but the company behind it says it’s still all about the millions-strong global Winamp community — and as proof, the original desktop app is getting an official update as well.

For those who don’t remember: Winamp was the MP3 player of choice around the turn of the century, but went through a rocky period during Aol ownership (our former parent company) and failed to counter the likes of iTunes and the onslaught of streaming services, and more or less crumbled over the years. The original app, last updated in 2013, still works, but to say it’s long in the tooth would be something of an understatement (the community has worked hard to keep it updated, however). So it’s with pleasure that I can confirm rumors that substantial updates are on the way.

“There will be a completely new version next year, with the legacy of Winamp but a more complete listening experience,” said Alexandre Saboundjian, CEO of Radionomy, the company that bought Winamp (or what remained of it) in 2014. “You can listen to the MP3s you may have at home, but also to the cloud, to podcasts, to streaming radio stations, to a playlist you perhaps have built.”

“People want one single experience,” he concluded. “I think Winamp is the perfect player to bring that to everybody. And we want people to have it on every device.”

Laugh if you want but I laugh back

Now, I’m a Winamp user myself. And while I’ve been saddened by the drama through which the iconic MP3 player and the team that created it have gone (at the hands of TechCrunch’s former parent company, Aol), I can’t say I’ve been affected by it in any real way. Winamp 2 and 5 have taken me all the way from Windows 98 SE to 10 with nary a hiccup, and the player is docked just to the right of this browser window as I type this. (I use the nucleo_nlog skin.)

And although I bear the burden of my colleagues’ derisive comments for my choice of player, I’m far from alone. Winamp has as many as a hundred million monthly users, most of whom are outside the U.S. This real, engaged user base could be a powerful foot in the door for a new platform — mobile-first, but with plenty of love for the desktop too.

“Winamp users really are everywhere. It’s a huge number,” said Saboundjian. “We have a really strong and important community. But everybody ‘knows’ that Winamp is dead, that we don’t work on it any more. This is not the case.”

This may not come as a shock to Winamp users still plugged into the scene: Following years of rumors, an update to the desktop player leaked last month, bringing it from version 5.666 to 5.8. It was a pleasant surprise to users who had encountered compatibility problems with Windows 10 but had taken the “more coming soon” notice on the website with a massive grain of salt.

This kind of thing happens a lot, after all: an old property or app gets bought, promises are made and after a few years it just sort of fades away. So a free update — in fact, 5.8 eliminates all paid options originally offered in the Pro version — bringing a bucketful of fixes is like Christmas coming early. Or late. At any rate it’s appreciated.

The official non-leaked 5.8 release should come out this week (the 18th, to be precise), and won’t be substantially different from the one we’ve been using for years or the one that leaked. Just bug and compatibility fixes that should keep this relic trucking along for a few years longer.

The update to the desktop app is basically a good faith advance payment to the community: Radionomy showing they aren’t just running away with the property and slapping the brand on some random venture. But the real news is Winamp 6, which Saboundjian says should come out in 2019.

“What I see today is you have to jump from one player to another player or aggregator if you want to listen to a radio station, to a podcast player if you want to listen to a podcast — this, to me, is not the final experience,” he explained. It’s all audio, and it’s all searchable in one fashion or another. So why isn’t it all in one place?

The planned version of Winamp for iOS and Android will be that place, Saboundjian claims. On desktop, “the war is over,” he said, and between the likes of iTunes and web apps, there’s not much room to squeeze in. But mobile audio is fractured and inconvenient.

While Saboundjian declined to get into the specifics of which services would be part of the new Winamp or how the app would plug into, say, your Spotify playlists, your Google Music library, your Podcasts app, Audible and so on, he seemed confident that it would meet the needs he outlined. There are many conversations underway, he said, but licensing and agreements aren’t the main difficulty, and of course release is still quite a ways out. The team has focused on creating a consistent app across every platform you might want encounter mobile audio. A highly improved search will also play a role — as it ought to, when your media is all lumped into one place.

No word on whether it will retain its trademark intro upon installation — “WINAMP. It really whips the llama’s ass.” I certainly hope so.

This lack of specifics is a bit frustrating, of course, but I’m not worried about vaporware. I’m worried that other services will insist on the fragmented experience they’ve created that serves their interests better than ours. But if Radionomy can navigate these tricky waters and deliver a product even a little like what they’ve described, I’ll be thrilled (and my guess is tens of millions more will be, as well). And if not, well, we’ll always have the original.

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Facebook’s gaming hub Fb.gg launches into beta on Android

Posted by | Android, Apps, Facebook, Fb.gg, Gaming, Mobile, streaming | No Comments

This summer, Facebook launched Fb.gg, its online gaming hub and Twitch competitor, designed to attract game streamers and their fans to watch videos on Facebook instead of on rival sites. The destination shows videos based on which games and streaming celebrities users follow, plus Liked Pages and Groups, and other featured suggestions of what to watch. Now, Fb.gg is expanding to mobile with its launch on Android.

The new app, first spotted by Sensor Tower, arrived just a few days ago and is currently in beta testing.

According to its description on Google Play, the app allows gamers and fans to discover a “universe of gaming content,” connect with creators and join communities, and play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR, and others.

From the screenshots, you can see how the Fb.gg app lets users tap navigation buttons at the top to find streamers to watch, or to view those streamers they’re already following, among other things. They can also participate in live conversations during gameplay with other viewers. Here, they can react to the stream using Facebook’s standard emoticon set of likes, hearts, haha’s and others.

Another section lets gamers jump into simple and popular mobile games. These titles are among those who were early participants in Facebook’s other gaming efforts in the past, like Instant Games on Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook has been trying to woo the gaming community for some time, to better compete against Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube. There’s a large and growing market for game streaming and viewing, with young viewers tuning in an average of 3+ hours a week to watch, as TechCrunch previously noted.

Facebook’s efforts to directly challenge Twitch and others kicked off in earnest this year, with the launch of its own version of Twitch’s Partner Program. Facebook’s  gaming creator pilot program, as it’s called, allows viewers to tip their favorite gamers. And with the arrival of Fb.gg in June, the virtual currency involved in those tips was being referred to as Facebook Stars, with each star equating to $0.01.

Facebook said it takes a cut of fans’ purchases of stars, ranging from 5%-30%, depending on what size pack is bought.

Facebook also recently began testing a monthly subscription option with game streamers, similar to what’s offered by YouTube and Twitch.

Of course, to truly compete with Twitch and YouTube, Facebook needs to go mobile as well – especially since the upcoming Messenger redesign will hide away extraneous features, like mobile gaming. That’s where Fb.gg’s app comes in.

The Android version of the Fb.gg beta app launched on October 9, and already has over 10,000 installs, according to Google Play.

“We recently started testing a standalone gaming app on Google Play that builds on the experience of fb.gg, our destination on Facebook for people to find gaming content in one place,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The fb.gg app is currently in beta with a limited set of features and available in the Philippines. We’re using the beta phase to get feedback from the gaming community and will make a decision on whether we roll it out further based on that response,” they said.

Update, here are some screenshots, courtesy of Twitter user Monte Thigpen:

Beta is exclusively in Philippines but here are some screenshots I got pic.twitter.com/kU3NeK6nGi

— Monte Thigpen Ⓜ ✪ (@mot427) October 12, 2018

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Reelgood’s app for cord cutters adds 50+ services, personalized recommendations

Posted by | Apps, cord cutting, Media, Mobile, reelgood, streaming, streaming services, TC, television, tv | No Comments

Reelgood, a startup aimed at helping cord cutters find their next binge, is out today with its biggest update yet. The company has been developing its streaming guide over the past year to solve the issues around discovery that exist when consumers drop traditional pay TV in favor of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Prime Video, and others.

The company first launched as a website in the summer of 2017 before expanding to mobile last fall. During that time, it’s grown to over a million monthly active users who now check in with Reelgood to find something new to watch.

With today’s update to its iOS app, Reelgood is adding a number of features, including personalized recommendations, curated selections, alerts for shows and movies you’re tracking, advanced search and filtering, and the ability to track content over 50 more streaming services, among other things.

As discovery is Reelgood’s focus, the updated app now offers two new types of recommendations.

One is Reelgood’s own take on “Because You Watched” – a type of viewing suggestion you’ll find today on individual services, like Netflix. But those are more limited because they’ll only suggest other shows or movies they offer themselves. Reelgood’s recommendations will instead span all the services you have access to, offering a more universal set of suggestions.

This feature is tied to Reelgood’s watch history, where you track which shows and movies you’ve seen. That means you have to use Reelgood as your tracking app as well, in order for this feature to work.

The app’s other new way of offering recommendations is less personalized – in fact, it’s random. Because sometimes serendipity is a better way to find something, a feature called “Reelgood Roulette” lets you shake your device while on the Discover tab to get a non-personalized, random suggestion.

Reelgood credits Netflix Roulette, created by Andrew Sampson, as the basis for this addition. In fact, it acquired the rights to the software last year, and then updated it to support more streaming services.

The app also now offers more powerful search and filtering capabilities involving Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb scores, plus cast and crew listings. This allows you to query up things like “Meryl Streep’s top-rated movies” or “drama series with an IMDb rating of at least 8.0 that came out in the last 3 years,” for example.

Reelgood’s search and filtering mechanisms have always been the place where it excels, but it’s less useful as a simple tracker. For that, I prefer TV Time, which lets you quickly mark entire seasons or series as “Watched” and offers discussion boards for each episode where you can post photos and memes and chat with other fans.

TV Time, however, hasn’t been as useful for making recommendations – its suggestions have been off-the-mark when I’ve tried it in the past, often leaning too heavily on network’s back catalogs than pushing me to more current or trending content. It makes me wish I could combine the two apps into one for the best of both worlds – tracking and recommendations.

The updated Reelgood app also doubles down on its own curation capabilities by offering editorial collections. For example: 2018 Emmy Nominees, IMDb’s Top 250 Movies, Original Picks, Dark Comedies, British Humour, and more. This can be a good way to find something to watch when you’re really stumped.

And as you discover new shows and movies you want to see, you can set alerts so you’ll be notified when they hit one of the streaming services you’re subscribed to, similar the tracking feature on Roku OS.

Finally, Reelgood’s update includes the addition of 50+ streaming services – that means there’s now support for more niche services like IndieFlix, FilmStruck, Shudder, Fandor, Crunchyroll, Mubi, AcornTV and Starz, among others.

“Reelgood 4.0 is the culmination of all we’ve learned about how people watch and the increasingly fragmented streaming world,” said Eli Chamberlin, Reelgood’s head of product and design. “Our aim with this release was to take all the streaming content out there, and display it in the most meaningful way possible so that people can get the most out of their existing streaming services without wasting countless hours browsing.”

The new app is rolling out to iOS today on the App Store.

 

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Twitch will livestream Pokémon TV series and movies, while viewers ‘catch’ badges

Posted by | Gaming, Media, pokemon, streaming, television, tv, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch has teamed up with The Pokémon Company to allow viewers to binge watch the Pokémon: The Series TV show and related movies on its site, and “catch” Pokémon badges along the way. While the former is one of Twitch’s many retro binge watch fests – it’s previously streamed old shows like Bob Ross, Julia Child, Mister Rogers, SNL, and most recently, Knight Rider – the interactive feature it’s debuting is something new.

According to the company, Twitch will launch its own Pokémon extension to accompany the broadcast. This overlay, called “Twitch Presents: Pokémon Badge Collector,” will encourage viewers to collect Pokémon badges that appear on the screen for points, which places them on a leaderboard.

This is only the second time Twitch has added an interactive element like this to one of its viewing events, and its addition could see users watching for longer periods of time, as a result. The first was a “watch and win” extension during a Doctor Who broadcast, but it was different as it focused on collecting contest entries.

Twitch also notes this will be the longest viewing event it’s ever held.

The binge will see 16 movies and 19 TV seasons with 932 episodes streamed across Twitch’s network, starting on August 27, 2018, and spanning until 2019. This will kick off with the first season, Pokémon: Indigo League at 10 AM PDT on the 27ths for audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. The content will air on TwitchPresents and on its companion channels in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

“The Twitch community has a passion for Pokémon based on the warm embrace the series received when we celebrated the brand’s 20th anniversary, as well as the cultural milestone that was set when over a hundred thousand Twitch members played Pokémon together,” said Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development at Twitch, in a statement about the launch.

The viewing event comes at a time when reports claim Twitch is going after a wider audience than just gamers. The company has been wooing creatives like vloggers, cooks, artists, and others to come to its site, instead of only broadcasting on YouTube. And it’s been airing non-esports content through marathon events like this new one with Pokémon. According to Bloomberg, TV show livestreams are one of the two fastest-growing genres on the site, the other being “IRL” (in real life) content.

The Pokémon viewing event, in particular, is aimed at a younger audience who may not have the level of nostalgia for the classic TV shows Twitch previously aired. Instead, Twitch says the livestream is appropriate for fans 13 and up – which means it could attract those whose first real exposure to Pokémon was the mobile game that went viral following its launch in 2016.

The dates and times of the Pokémon series and movies will be on Twitch Presents. The binge fest won’t include newer series, like the Sun & Moon or Sun & Moon Ultra Adventures, however.

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Gaming star Ninja sparks outrage by refusing to stream with women

Posted by | fortnite, Gaming, Ninja, streaming, TC, Twitch | No Comments

At a Samsung event last week, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins explained why he doesn’t stream with female gamers.

“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” said Ninja, who is married, in an interview with Polygon.

As you might expect, this stance was met with plenty of backlash.

dont it get it why so many ppl defending ninja over not playing females? Imagine going to your work and saying i dont wanna work with females..

— Badman Hendrik (@Handigeharrie23) August 13, 2018

Ninja then doubled down on his stance, clarifying that it comes down to an issue of online harassment.

Please read. pic.twitter.com/egfplBQFYD

— Ninja (@Ninja) August 13, 2018

First and foremost, everyone has the prerogative to make decisions for their own personal life. If Ninja believes that the online harassment suffered (by just about any internet celebrity) is too much for him and his family to deal with, and that playing with women will exacerbate that harassment, then that is his choice.

The problem is that it goes against his usual stance of taking responsibility for his position as a role model.

As Kotaku aptly points out, Ninja has made real moves toward being a role model for his 10 million+ Twitch followers, from cutting down on cursing on stream to giving to charity and other important causes. In fact, Ninja sees his commitment to charities and his role as an activist as one of the most amazing things he’s done in his life.

And he’s well aware of his influence. He often “raids” less popular Twitch streamers’ channels, including some women, to give them exposure.

So why be a role model who doesn’t include women?

Yes, being a celebrity comes with an inordinate amount of online harassment. And that sucks. But it also comes with a level of responsibility. Not everyone has the platform to make an actual difference in this world. And when our Vice President, and other influencers, have decided that being alone in the same room (virtual or otherwise) with women opens them up to too much vulnerability, they make it that much harder for women to achieve the same influence.

Remember, gaming is about as extreme a culture as a woman can find herself in. Not only are women excluded in this male-dominated community, but they’re often sexually and verbally harassed, which isn’t helped much by the fact that games themselves portray women as props moreso than protagonists.

Ninja is the most influential gamer of our generation, the likes of which have never been seen before. The success of female streamers and gamers surely isn’t reliant on him. But he could very well change the hearts and minds of a generation of young men who may stop thinking of women as less, and might start thinking of them as equals.

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Twitch is closing its Communities

Posted by | Amazon, communities, games, Gaming, streaming, streaming service, Twitch | No Comments

Say goodbye to Twitch’s Communities. The game-streaming service says it’s soon killing off this still relatively new addition to its site in favor of implementing a tagging system instead. With the changes, users will be able to filter streams by tags within a directory or across different games on the Browse page, in order to better find the sort of streams they want to watch.

The closure of Communities and addition of tags is being planned for mid-September, says Twitch.

Twitch launched Communities just last year, with the goal of better catering to users’ unique interests. For example, different types of gaming, like retro, or different activities, like speedrunning, could then have their own community. There are also communities centered around titles like Fortnite Battle Royale, PUBG, League of Legends and others, as well as those focused on creative endeavors like music, drawing, cooking, cosplay and more.

But the system has become less helpful as Twitch itself, the number of streamers and the number of communities grew. Today, there’s a lot of overlap between different Communities or between Communities and games, says Twitch.

This is attributable, in part, to the open nature of Communities — there are many with similar names, and no good way to tell what makes them different from one another at first glance.

“Communities were one solution for giving viewers information to help them decide what to watch, but viewers weren’t able to see that information while browsing within a directory they were interested in,” the company noted in an announcement.

It also found that Communities weren’t driving viewers to watch streams — in fact less than 3 percent of Twitch viewership was from users who found streams through the Communities feature. That points to a pretty broad failure of Communities serving as a discovery feature.

Twitch now hopes that the implementation of tags will make things better on that front.

The company says it will add tags to the site in mid-September, and these will be used to identify a stream across Twitch’s directory pages, the homepage, search, channel pages and everywhere else. The main Directory pages and the Browse page will also be able to be filtered by these tags, some of which will be auto-generated.

Twitch says it will automatically add tags like game genres, and some in-game features it can auto-detect — another project it now has in the works. But most of the tags will be selected by the streamer — not user-generated, to be clear, but selected.

Streamers will be able to suggest new tags, however.

The tags will appear alongside the video thumbnail, stream title and the game or category being streamed.

The change is one that speaks to the limitations of portal-like interfaces being used to access a large amount of information — that is, browsing to a particular section to find things you like, then scrolling through those results takes too much time. It isn’t that helpful in the long run. Tagging lets users filter information, paring down, in this case, a large number of Twitch streams to find just those you like.

That being said, not all Twitch users are happy about the changes. But some are happy about it and others are cautiously optimistic about tagging.

So in case you haven’t heard the news, @Twitch is removing Communities because “they werent being used” which means that The Cookout Community page that we’ve built up over this past year wont exist a month from now. We will have to come up with new ways to find each other. pic.twitter.com/95fKSgTwB0

— The Villain. (@DennyVonDoom) August 9, 2018

It is with a heavy heart i must share the sad news,That Twitch Communities will be removed,say goodbye to Communities we are being introduced to Tags. Unsure on how this will work out on twitch. I only have but one thing to say, Everything We Do Will Remain The Same #CESupport pic.twitter.com/OjkGXjoYgP

— Letseuq [CE] (@Letseuqion) August 10, 2018

We feel communities gave streamers a sense of self identity that was much needed

It is worrisome to see tags implemented instead of more freeform communties as it removes agency from the streamers in how they choose to define their stream and themselves.

What are your thoughts?

— TwitchKittens (@TwitchKittens) August 9, 2018

It’s a shame that @Twitch are removing Communities, but the implementation of tags is a really cool idea, and I look forward to the possibility of seeing a #StreamersConnected tag.

— Lt Zonda [SC] (@LTZONDA) August 9, 2018

I’m happy with it to be honest, 3 communities is extremely limiting anyway especially when the majority of people have more than 3. I dunno how anyone was supposed to find community pages easily, think more traffic came from external sources and game listings than community pages

— OK Sauce (@oksaucedesu) August 10, 2018

Honesty, I don’t see how this’ll hurt anyone. You can still make communities outside of Twitch. Then you can just use a tag instead. Same idea really. What is a community? A bunch of people using the same tag? I’m still not even part of a community.

— Vanilla Bizcotti (@VanBiztheRapper) August 10, 2018

The interesting thing about @Twitch rolling out this tags feature is that they’re gonna eventually include them on mobile….which they never did for Communities. So how can you accurately measure the usefulness of the Communities feature if not everybody had access to it?

— Jae. (@JaeTheTerrible) August 10, 2018

Everyone is getting up in arms about Twitch removing communities. Believe it or not, communities can be used to push away gamers just as much as bring them together.

— Vanilla Bizcotti (@VanBiztheRapper) August 10, 2018

Twitch says tagging will first launch on the web, and the company will then listen to feedback about missing tags before launching the feature on mobile.

The mid-September launch date could change, but is the target for now.

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GameFly to shutter streaming service this month

Posted by | closing, ea, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, gamefly, Gaming, streaming | No Comments

GameFly, the video game rental company, will be shutting down its streaming service at the end of the month, Variety reported earlier this week. This closure comes just over three years after the streaming service launched in 2015.

GameFly, the no-console streaming service for gamers, offered packages for $7 and $10 per month that gave users unlimited access to titles — as long as they had a smart TV like an Amazon Fire or Samsung Smart TV, in addition to a controller and access to the internet. Just as GameFly’s original snail-mail rental service for games mimicked Netflix’s from days of yore, many touted the streaming service as the Netflix of gaming.

Support for the service will be maintained through the end of August and accounts will not be charged for the service after that date, according to Variety. But people can still rent physical games (and movies) from the company for $9.50 per month (one rental at a time) or $13.50 per month (two rentals at a time.)

This news comes about three months after EA acquired the technology and team members from GameFly’s cloud gaming division — a division that helped make it possible to save your progress to the cloud while gaming on the streaming service. But the acquisition did not include GameFly’s streaming service.

“We acquired the team in Israel and the technology they’ve developed, we did not acquire the Gamefly streaming service,” an EA spokesperson told Variety. “We have not been involved in any decisions around the service.”

TechCrunch reached out to GameFly for comment but the company did not respond by the time of publication regarding the reasons behind this closure.

Meanwhile, the world of streaming games appears to be continuing on just fine. Sony’s PlayStation Now continues to add titles to its service, French startup Blade’s streaming service is expanding availability this week in the U.S. and EA itself announced at E3 this summer plans to start work on its own streaming service.

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