Twitch is getting ready to share a voice it’s never had before.
Renowned as the world’s most popular site for live-streamed gaming, the Amazon-owned platform is once again expanding into new territory, this time by embracing karaoke. Called Twitch Sings, the new competitive live singing portal was the most surprising headline of the recent Twitchcon 2018 festival, held in San Jose.
The Twitch Sings release highlights the depth and diversity of the site. What began as a place for pure gaming is now a community of millions that devours live streams and content across lifestyle, creative arts, IRL vlogging, talk shows, cooking shows, and more.
Just what the Twitch crowd will make of their newfound chance to sing to each other in real time remains to be seen, but Twitch Sings offers a nice blend of the competitive and the social aspects of the site and it could be an avenue to creating a more satisfying virtual community.
What Is Twitch Sings?
Once you add karaoke to a site focused on gaming, you’re inviting comparisons to the console-based musical success of Rock Band and Guitar Hero–which is just fine, because the new game was developed in partnership with the makers of Rock Band. The difference with Twitch Sings is that the emphasis seems to have been moved away from frantic button pressing in time to a rock beat and toward the use of actual human voices.
We won’t know what Twitch Sings will look like until some time in 2019, as the service has only just entered the closed Beta testing phase–you can log in and get an early glimpse if you’re a Twitch member.
The feature was announced during the keynote address at Twitchcon 2018, along with a few intriguing details. It is specifically built for live streaming, and will have full chat integration, meaning viewers can request songs and performers can earn a little money through audience approval–a revenue system similar to the “tips” earned by YouNow live streamers. Viewers will also be able to issue challenges to performers, including singing without the lyrics in front of them.
As you’d guess from that description, and as you can see from the video below, Twitch Sings is going to be built around the straightforward stand-and-deliver style of traditional nightclub karaoke.
As the online world has learned from the dramatic success of its leading live streamers, keeping things simple is the best way for Twitch Sings to find an audience–perhaps even a much-needed female one.
Is Twitch Sings for Women?
It has been argued that Twitch Sings is an attempt to make Twitch more appealing to women, and in turn make its demographics more appealing to advertisers. Twitch could certainly use the gender boost. It has been estimated that only around a third of the site’s average playing and viewing audience is female. Likewise, none of the top 10 most followed streamers on the site are women.
Earlier this year, Twitch released stricter policies on fighting harassment and sexually suggestive behavior on its servers, and it has in the past had to deal with cases of threatening behavior towards women.
Staging a karaoke competition is unlikely to do much to change the gender attitudes of gamers but moving gaming toward a more social experience could pique the interest of women online. Women are more active than men on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and digital platforms have proven to increase female participation in traditionally male arenas in the past–such as the recent rise in women’s participation in social sports media.
If Twitch Sings does diversify the site’s audience–regardless of the ultimate aim (we know it’s always for the money, Twitch)–it’ll continue Twitch’s evolution into an actual community rather than just a way to get an audience to watch while you shoot bad guys.
Online Streaming Is Another Form of Connection
We’ve argued in the past that the growth of online streaming and gaming is in keeping with the wider trend toward taking our social lives onto the digital realm. Platforms like Twitch and Discord are social gaming networks; not just places to play but places to connect.
What you get with a new avenue like Twitch Sings is a fleshing out of that network into something that better fulfills a wider range of user needs. Yes, it’s fun to play Fortnite, but the element of human interaction made possible by a chat plus a live stream or through the face-to-face intimacy of video conferencing (a feature Twitch introduced not long ago on the Twitch desktop app) is what gives the virtual platform its staying power.
We’ve already seen e-sports gain enough supporters to arouse the interests of the traditional media, so perhaps we’ll soon get a Twitch Sings phenomena that rivals the popularity of America’s Got Talent…only this time the judges will be millions of everyday social network users.