“For a long time eSports was seen as a kind of niche sideshow by the gaming industry,” says David Ting, head of online publishing at Blizzard. “That has totally changed.”
At the center of this boom in eSports is Twitch, the streaming video service which has become the platform for every major tournament. “Right now they have a commanding lead over everyone else in terms of broadcasting competitive gaming,” says Ting. Twitch has become so central to the market it’s being integrated directly into the software of new releases from Blizzard and in the hardware of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. If these next-generation consoles sell as well as their predecessors, Twitch could soon be in more than half of all American living rooms.
“When it comes to the broadcast of big events, they have a stranglehold on the market,” says Rod Breslau, senior eSports editor for Gamespot. “At this point folks just refer to them as the ESPN of eSports.”
The growth in eSports is reflected in Twitch’s traffic numbers. In October of 2012, the company reported a little over 20 million monthly visitors. In August of this year, Twitch’s monthly traffic had more than doubled to 45 million. On the back of this growth, the company announced today that it had raised $20 million dollars in a funding round led by Thrive Capital. Participants include one of the video games industry’s biggest players, Take-Two Interactive, the publisher behind titles likeGrand Theft Auto and BioShock. The money will be used to grow Twitch’s advertising sales team and build out its infrastructure for streaming live tournaments in Europe and Asia.
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