My Interview with Emmett Shear, CEO of Twitch

I had the chance to chat with Emmett Shear, CEO of Twitch about the partnership we announced today at E3. Here is more information about the partnership, what Twitch offers gamers, and Shears’ favorite games.

Major Nelson (MN): What does Xbox One integration of Twitch mean for the future of live broadcasting?
Shear: This is our chance to break into the console space in a big way. To date, PC games have been the biggest things on Twitch, mostly because it’s incredibly difficult to broadcast console games today. The Xbox One integration means that Twitch users are going to be able to broadcast their console experiences even more easily than they can broadcast from PC. Live broadcasting your game is going to be for everyone in the future, not just people who can afford a capture card.

MN: What excites you most about coming to the Xbox platform, specifically Xbox One?
Shear: The Xbox One platform combines the best parts of console gaming with the best parts of PC gaming. Dedicated hardware for high level performance, combined with multitasking to run broadcasting and chat at the same time. The platform melds gaming with other activities in a way that we’ve never seen before. There’s no way we could have accomplished what we’re doing with the Xbox One on any other platform.

MN: In your wildest dreams, did you expect Twitch to blow up like it has over the last 18-24 months?

Shear: Well, probably in the wildest ones! In seriousness, I did not expect this amount of growth so fast. I always thought that game streaming was going to be big, but to see it take off the way it has is really gratifying. Of course as you grow you have all kinds of new, bigger, more interesting problems. So at the very least, it’s never boring!

MN: If I’m a gamer that has never experienced Twitch, how would you convince me that it is worthwhile?

Shear: It depends a lot on what kind of gamer you are. If you love Call of Duty multiplayer, Twitch offers you the chance to see some of the sickest kill streaks you’ve ever seen and watch tactics from the very best. If you love Minecraft worlds, Twitch lets you see all the mods you could be using and get inspiration for new creations. If you love League of Legends, Twitch is your chance to watch the top teams in the entire world battle for supremacy.

MN: What’s your favorite game to play?
Shear: I love all kinds of games. I’m kind of a game omnivore. Most recently I’ve actually been playing a lot of board games and card games. Magic: The Gathering, Small World, Coup. On the computer, usually Heart of the Swarm. My all-time most played game is almost certainly StarCraft: Broodwar. Close second to Super Smash Brothers.

MN: What’s your favorite game to watch other play?
Shear: Of course I enjoy watching games that I play, so Starcraft and Magic obviously rank highly. I actually love watching DOTA 2 and League of Legends as well, even though I don’t really play either. The strategic depth is really high and the games are super tense but it’s a genre I haven’t ever put the time in to learn myself.

MN: What has surprised you the most over the last 24 months?
Shear: The generosity of the Twitch community. I am continually surprised to see that not only will gamers on Twitch pull together to support each other and the broadcasters they love, they’ll find ways to support good causes around the world.

MN: Twitch is often associated with eSports, but there is a lot more being streamed than competitive gaming. Can you elaborate on what other types of content people are tuning in to Twitch to view?
Shear: While eSports is obviously an important part of what’s on Twitch, it’s actually a minority of the total content on the site. The other three major categories are educational, creative, and interactive content. Educational content is made from streams that people watch to learn from, like coaching or just detailed analytical commentary. Creative content is all about showing off exciting new things that people have figured out they can do in a game, stuff you never would have expected. And interactive content, the biggest set of content, is all about the viewer interacting with the streamer live in the middle of the stream. Obviously these categories can overlap, so you can have creative educational content, or interactive eSports content, but most things fall into one or the other.

MN: What has changed to make video games so popular among spectators?
Shear: Put simply: it’s now possible. Internet connections are fast enough and video encoding is widespread enough that it’s possible to create this content. Live video is a lot more bandwidth intensive than clip-based video, so it makes sense that it’s taking off later.

MN: What’s next for Twitch now that you’ve conquered the gaming space?
Shear: I wouldn’t say we’ve conquered the gaming space yet. We have a good start, but there’s a long way to go still. Until every single gamer on every platform knows they can catch the best gameplay and coolest new streams on Twitch, we’re not done.

*Available with supported games.