Thoughts on Twitch Affiliatehood

Recently, Twitch announced and rolled out a a new program for non-partnered streamers called the Affiliate program. You can read the post for the full scoop, but the basic summary is that some non-partnered streamers can accept “bits”, a currency used on Twitch, and the end goal is for Affiliates to basically be “Partners-lite”, with a single subscription emote.

A disclaimer that I was one of the first people accepted into this program (It launched on the 24th, and I got my notification about it on the 25th), which probably colors my view of it.

Having said that, I love this program in concept. One of Twitch’s issues from the start has been that its structure promotes “The rich get richer, the 99% can go jump in an outhouse”. This is in terms of both obvious things, such as sorting stream in descending order by number of viewers, and less conscious decisions that nonetheless make you go “WTF?”. As one example, and this may have been fixed more recently, Twitch liked to recommend games like League of Legends, Halo, and Call of Duty to viewers of my stream if you actually bothered to use the leftmost twitch column (I have nothing personally against any of these games, other than Twitch’s tendency to promote anything and everything related to LoL at the expense of literally everything else(1) in its early days. They just aren’t for me.).

And so, there have been other features added to Twitch over the years (Communities, etc), but this might be the first time Twitch has actually acknowledged a problem and really worked to consciously assist smaller streamers in pursuing “the dream” as it were. It’s awesome to see them taking that step.

I do question how effective the program will be in its implied aim of actually helping more streamers make the jump to partner. Even with this, there’s so much competition that the odds of it happening are super long. I’ve ranted about it in the past, but “get lucky in one form or another” is still the way to actually make it to partnership. In that light, there are a couple ways of looking at the program with varying degrees of cynicism.

One is that Twitch are trying to get more money into “The Twitch ecosystem” as it were. A couple years ago, Twitch were bought by Amazon for nearly a billion (Yes, with a B) dollars. I suppose this could have happened just because Jeff Bezos is a big fan of MANvsGAME, Witwix, TheMexicanRunner, or some other big streamer, similar to Ted Turner using his practically infinite financial resources to keep WCW alive in the late 1980s/early 1990s just because he loved pro wrestling. More likely, though, Amazon wants some kind of return on their investment, and this program is one step toward that. If you don’t know how bits work, each bit is worth 1 cent to the recipient. As a “bit giver”, you can either get them through watching ads, or purchase them at an upcharge to hand out (So 100 bits may cost $1.40 to purchase, for instance, with that extra 40 cents going to Twitch). The more streamers that a person watches that can accept bits, the more likely a person is to purchase them (Which gives Twitch a cut), as opposed to just donating to that person directly through PayPal/Patreon/etc (Which does not give Twitch a cut). It makes sense from Twitch’s perspective, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense from the donator’s. There’s a kind of symbiotic relationship there–Twitch wouldn’t be what it is without the streamers, but those streamers wouldn’t have a place to stream without Twitch(2).

The second cynical take here is that it’s a way for Twitch to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, without saying specifically that that’s what they’re doing. What I mean by this is that some people believe that, if they could only get partnership and a sub button, they can then just sit back and watch the money roll in. Most actual partners will tell you that’s not the case (Particularly if you want to go full-time with streaming, they’ll say partnership is just the starting point, not the end goal), but the affiliate program may be a way to “show, don’t tell” on Twitch’s end. “Okay smaller streamers, here are some of the financial aspects of partnership to get you started. Now you can see how easy this REALLY is,” they seem to be saying.

Still, overall, I view this as a major positive. The requirements are quite lenient in my view, and it harkens back in a way to the “old days” when partnership and having a subscription button were two separate “tiers” on Twitch.

Now I just need to figure out how I want to adjust the stream, if at all.


(1) Fellow “twitch oldbois” will no doubt remember the Bad Old Days when, every weekend without fail, chat would break horribly. “Oh, it’s the weekend and chat’s broken. Must be a League tournament going on.” Just about always, there was.

(2) Yes, other streaming services exist, but let’s be realistic here, there’s a reason why every time Twitch angered the speedrunning community to the point of a threatened “mass exodus”, pretty much everyone who left came crawling back to Twitch within days. That reason is “Oh, right, despite all the platitudes of ‘stream like nobody’s watching’ we like to spew forth, streaming to zero viewers actually sucks, and almost no one watches non-Twitch streams.”

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