Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.
Tyler ‘Trainwreck’ Niknam, one of Twitch’s top streamers, announced he would be moving to a new service called Kick.com and joining as a “non-owner adviser and non-exclusive broadcaster.” He explained that the move was driven by Twitch’s treatment of streamers. However, later details — like Kick’s potential connection to gambling operator Stake.com — suggest that this move was influenced by Twitch’s recent ban on streaming slots, roulette, or dice games.
Twitch revenue splits drive wedge
Trainwreck leveled several complaints against Twitch in his exit regarding how the platform treats its creators. “Twitch has built an empire off of our backs and has the audacity to spit in all of our faces by not only giving us no financial security, with its inconsistent policies, but by also cutting our pay in places that they have no right to cut,” he argued.
Unlike YouTube and Facebook Gaming which split revenue 70/30 in favor of creators, Twitch’s streamers receive a 50/50 cut. While certain streamers used to get this 70/30 cut on Twitch, the platform recently changed its polices where this advantageous split only applied to the first $100,000 earned. Of course, this hit the most popular creators like Trainwreck hardest.
Many others share Trainwreck’s view that Twitch losing focus on being creator-first. It’s part of the reason why so many streamers are jumping to new platforms and old rivals, particularly YouTube.
GamesBeat Summit 2023
Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.
Kick.com appears to be drastically undercutting its competition according to Trainwreck’s announcement. Kick will reportedly take a 5 percent cut with 95 percent going to the streamer. He also promised that creators would keep 100% of their tips. Additionally, streamers in its creator program would be rewarded for hours watched and viewers, not just subscribers.
Of course, this calls into question how sustainable Kick will be.
“One of the best things any creator-focused company can do is find ways to help its users make money by taking less from them with ad revenue being a good means to achieve this,” Gil Hirsch, CEO and cofounder of StreamElements, a top creator tools and sponsorships platform, told GamesBeat.
“According to the announcement, Kick plans to offer creators a bigger revenue share from subscriptions by offsetting this with income from advertisers which has worked well in other parts of the ecosystem. The challenge will be attracting a significant amount of advertisers as Kick scales up in this expensive global medium while heading toward what many are speculating to be a down period in brand spending.”
While revenue obviously motivated Trainwreck to move platforms, he also pointed to Twitch’s inconsistent policies. The change in Twitch’s revenue split occurred just a day after Twitch announced an major overhaul to its gambling polices. While some caveats applied, the policy generally allowed poker and sports betting. However, slots, roulette and dice games could no longer be streamed on the platform.
In 2022, the Slots category was booming on the platform. In a previous statement to TubeFilter, Hirsch explained that from April 2022, “the Slots category on Twitch has grown month-over-month soaring from 31M hours watched to over 50M hours watched in August.”
While Twitch’s actions likely benefited the long term health of the platform, this policy change negatively impacted streamers like Trainwreck.
According to data from Vindex, Trainwreck averaged over 20,500 viewers in the four weeks before the ban. In the four weeks after, that fell to just shy of 12,000 — a loss of about 42 percent. It makes sense as 80% of pre-ban signed-in viewers watched other Slots content. Additionally, this harmed Trainwreck’s retention. Pre-ban, about half of signed-in viewers returned to watch him again within a week. After, that fell to about three in ten signed-in viewers returning.
After the policy went into effect, Trainwreck claimed that his primary sponsor, a Curaçao-based gambling operator Stake.com, paid him a total of $360 million over 16 months to stream Slots to his viewers. Between potentially losing this sponsorship and an advantageous revenue split in a matter of days, it’s clear why Trainwreck wanted an alternative to Twitch.
Stake’s involvement in Kick
After Trainwreck’s announcement, some concerns about Kick began to surface.
Stephen ‘Coffeezilla’ Findeisen, a popular YouTuber that frequently investigates shady companies and scams, posted evidence that Stake owns Kick. This included shared moderators that operated both Stake and Kick’s subreddits and screenshots of job listings from Easygo that explicitly confirm them as the parent company of both Kick and Stake.
While this team up between Kick, Stake, and Trainwreck is not necessarily untoward, it’s clear that this was a turn off for many streamers who may have otherwise considered switching for the revenue split. To that end, it partially explains why the service was able to offer such beneficial rates for streamers. Easygo clearly values livestreaming as a way to acquire new users — and now it owns a platform where it controls the rules.
Kick’s future as a Twitch challenger
It’s not clear if Kick will succeed in the long run. In just one day, the service was busted for embedding Twitch streams and moderation issues (NSFW). These growing pains are to be expected, but it will be difficult to build trust with its potential users if this continues.
Other platforms — most notably Trovo, DLive, Caffeine and the now defunct Mixer — have all attempted to challenge Twitch’s dominance. Kick’s clear gambling niche (and underlying support from Stake) may help distinguish it from other platforms, supporting early growth. However, this could be a double edged sword, alienating potential users and advertisers — especially after not disclosing these gambling connections from the get go.
Ultimately, this is another sign that Twitch’s relationship with its creators is fracturing. Creators are seeking alternatives and its not clear what Twitch is doing to reverse this trend.
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.