Twitch has released the full version of its desktop app as it aims to connect every moment of your gaming life. The app, which went into a public testing phase in the spring, is now out of beta. It provides a way for fans to watch Twitch content, manage game mods, and more. Most important, the Amazon-owned video platform wants its audience to use its app to group up into smaller communities with features like text and voice chat similar to the popular social tool Discord.
The Twitch app combines the web experience of browsing livestreams with options to create personal “servers” for yourself and topics you find interesting. This app is the result of Twitch’s acquisition of the Curse platform, which provided many of these features in its own desktop app for years. But these days, Discord owns this space. For evidence of that, you can watch almost any popular creator on Twitch, many of whom have their own servers on that platform for their communities. Some broadcasters even have subscriber-only Discords to encourage people to support them financially.
Twitch wants in on that action, and you can see why it and its parent company Amazon would find that valuable.
Twitch wants to keep its audience as engaged as possible. I wrote how Discord has become my default social community online instead of destinations like Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit because I feel a membership or ownership over my communities. Twitch would love to have that kind of behavior from its users because it could then roll them right back into new livestream content through suggested feeds on the front page. That would increase its daily active viewers, which in turn would increase its value to advertisers and sponsors.
For Amazon, a built-in app could reveal crucial data about how players spend their time, which could lead to better product targeting. Strategies like A/B testing, where you show the same thing to a group of people in different ways to see what works the best, are also easier to do in an app than through a web browser. Amazon could potentially even begin selling games directly through the app to create a full-fledged Steam competitor. As of the full launch, the app redirects you to the Twitch game store on the web when you click on “add games” in your library.
To take advantage of a lot of those benefits, Twitch and Amazon will need the desktop app to reach a critical mass of active users. Getting to that point will depend on whether the app works and people feel an urgency to use it.
The app certainly works. It’s responsive and everything load quickly. It is also at least as simple to use as Discord. But a functional app is table stakes, and no one downloads anything just because it works. Twitch will have to show people why they need it. Discord has done that by giving people a high-quality voice experience with powerful tools, and it is now growing simply because so many people use it. Twitch will have a difficult time breaking through that cycle. It could do it by partnering with some of its high-profile broadcasters. Or maybe it could do it by providing game discounts on Amazon.
But for now, few existing Discord groups will likely see a reason to migrate to Twitch. But the opposite, where groups that start on Twitch migrate to Discord, could happen if gamers get sick of running two community clients in the background at all times.