The many messy scandals surrounding Twitch and its future reputation

It’s not looking good for gamer streaming giant platform, Twitch. In September, a streamer admitted he had borrowed money from top creators under false pretences to feed a gambling addiction. This scandal was then followed by another; a Bloomberg News report detailed allegations that Twitch had not curtailed the exploitation of children on its platform. That was 2022. 

Now, 2023 has gotten off to an eventful start: Last week, following the birth of his first child, longtime CEO Emmett Shear announced that he would step down from his position. Several days later, new Twitch CEO Dan Clancy said the company will be laying off more than 400 employees out of a total of around 2,500.

This is not to say, however, that Twitch has not had its successes. Twitch has had some significant successes in the last year. It quickly removed the live stream of the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in which 10 people were killed. Following news reports on its failure to protect children from online predators, Twitch released new anti-child predation measures like mandatory phone verification for potentially vulnerable accounts. The company also offered new tools such as viewer ban information that can be shared between streamers to aid in the ongoing battle against bot-powered “hate raids,” in which trolls overwhelm streamers’ chats with fake accounts that spam hateful messages. 

But as Twitch grows, so do its expenses. But Twitch’s moves in pursuit of profitability have confused and upset creators, fans and staff. Creators have decried new monetization schemes that put the onus on them to run more ads.

In its early days, Twitch managed the unlikely: getting an audience that doesn’t like to pay for content to shell out for subscriptions to their favourite streamers’ channels. Supporting streamers with subscriptions, and in turn supporting Twitch, became a part of the site’s culture.

But in 2019, two of Twitch’s biggest stars — Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek — departed after signing deals to exclusively stream for Twitch’s Microsoft-owned rival, Mixer. Despite the defections, Twitch viewership held steady; In 2020, Twitch viewership skyrocketed to its highest point ever.

Microsoft shuttered Mixer in 2020. But as Blevins and Grzesiek both eventually made their way back to Twitch, Shear and other Twitch executives decided to shift their strategy, according to several current and former employees. Instead of paying a premium for top talent, the company offered its big streamers less lucrative contracts.

Twitch’s current approach is in part a product of scale: No company would ever be able to give personalised attention to partnered creators like Twitch did when there were only thousands, not millions, of creators. But the bigger issue, in the eyes of some in Twitch’s community, is one of direction.

An influx of senior executives, who some current and former employees say treat Twitch like just another tech company, has contributed to a feeling of malaise and displeasure with the platform.

Creators have also complained about Constance Knight, who served as VP of global creators saying that the executive was broadly unsympathetic to the needs of creators. Furthermore, in a January 2022 email viewed by The Post, Knight wrote that burnout — a pervasive issue among longtime Twitch streamers — was not a valid reason for creators to not meet contractual obligations. 

Mark “Garvey” Candella, a former Twitch employee, characterised Knight as an impediment to his work and the work of others.

“I worked with her for seven months, and we never got any kind of team-based strategy — how we want to work together,” said Candella, who led Twitch’s student team and had been at Twitch for eight years before he resigned in July. “And she didn’t want to give any of her allocated budget to anybody on the team.”

While Knight herself left Twitch in September, current and former employees said Knight was not the only example of an out-of-touch leader at Twitch.

Amidst many scandals and the growth of a somewhat weak reputation, it seems like a time for Twitch to make some difficult decisions in order to prolong the sustainable future of the app. 

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