Video-game streaming service Twitch made an announcement this morning that practically everyone saw coming ever since the site was acquired by Amazon: It will begin selling games directly. Beginning this spring, Twitch will start selling downloadable PC games directly on its platform, which can then be installed through a software launcher that contains users’ digital collections.
While there will be a dedicated storefront on Twitch, the bigger tweak is allowing people to purchase games right from a channel page. In other words, people watching someone play a fun game on a stream will be able to buy it themselves with a few clicks. This has been the clear endgame for Amazon, and explains why the e-commerce company paid $1 billion for what was mostly a media operation in 2014.
Buying a game directly from a channel page offers streamers another way to collect revenue, in addition to users paying a $5 monthly subscription and tipping them at will. Users who purchase games on Twitch will also get “crates” full of random bonus rewards like custom emoji and in-game items. The Twitch Prime program, which offers free games and perks to Amazon Prime subscribers, is similar in this regard.
The interesting thing about Twitch’s rollout of video-game sales is their current focus on digital distribution. It is well within Amazon’s capacity to integrate selling physical goods, like console games, into Twitch, but they’re not doing that.
The service with the most to lose from Twitch bolstering game sales is Steam, the de facto point of sale for PC game downloads, run by Valve Software. Other services have tried to take on Steam to varying success, but nobody has come close to surmounting it. Amazon’s move to integrate Twitch into its sale of PC games is probably the best effort yet to pose a real threat — a combined storefront and social network tied to a large company that can flex some muscle when it comes to competitive pricing.