Twitch decides to take the high road and give the community what they wanted.
Over the last two years, Twitch has ascended as a major player in the world of eSports, offering gamers or broadcasters such as Major League Gaming (MLG) or Ongamenet (OGN) to stream their favorite game content for others to view. Games such as League of Legends have even broadcasted their worldwide tournaments using Twitch, bringing in massive revenue for both companies. Earlier this week, Twitch announced that they would no longer be offering resolutions higher than 360p for channels that require a subscription fee to receive HD to non-subscribing users. Less than 24 hours later, however, they redacted their initial statement, sending out a second Tweet, announcing that 360p, 480p, and 720p would still be available to all users.
Though it was certainly one factor, the story goes deeper than a simple money grab from Twitch. Before the initial change was announced, Twitch posted a long explanation on their blog of the changes to come, mostly having to do with upgrading their hardware and making their systems more compatible with mobile streaming and services such as DVR. The initial change would replace the normal option of resolutions (240p/360p/etc) with Low/Medium/High/Source (representing the streamer's source quality), which would offer a more nuanced and specific stream quality that considered things such as bitrate, framerates, hardware resources, and other factors. While this idea seemed like a well-considered move for the streaming monolith, the community heartily disagreed.
After posting the announcement on their Twitter account, the Twitter and Reddit gaming communities brought out their torches and pitchforks, responding with several thousand response Tweets and a Reddit thread with over 1200 comments, most of them vitriolic, spiteful, or worse. Though the initial post from the Twitch Twitter account has since been removed, it read as follows:
"480p was out all night carousing, actin a fool, so we had to put it in The Chokey. Medium is a high quality 360pnow, think 360p+."
The change to remove 480p as an option seems subtle from the outside, but represents a notable downgrade in quality for the average non-subscribing user. Many companies such as MLG or OGN require subscriptions to view their channels in 720p, and 360p is a poor substitute, often referred to as low-definition television. Anyone who has had to watch an extended Youtube video in 360p understands this frustration.
By being cornered into into either subscribing or accepting a lower viewing quality, many viewers felt that they had been betrayed by the large company after supporting them for so long. Vocal followers accused Twitch of following money, or abusing the near-monopoly that Twitch has over the game streaming industry. Overall, the community made their feelings clear: the removal of 480p streaming was enough to make a notable part of Twitch's followers consider other sites such as Azubu.tv or Youtube as a new default for watching eSports and other content.
In less than 24 hours after their announcement had been made, the Twitch Twitter account posted a second Tweet, redacting the changes.
Starting right now, transcodes for new broadcasts are: Low (360p) Med (480p) High (720p). Thank you all for the valuable feedback!— Twitch (@TwitchTV) August 29, 2013
While the Reddit community takes credit for the reverted system and the reimplementation of 480p in Twitch's streams, it also speaks to the willingness on Twitch's end to respond to the feedback of their community, and to actually give the consumers what they wanted. The new hybrid system will allow non-subscribing viewers to maintain their default quality, while opening up new avenues for Twitch, such as audio only stream, which will expand their market.
With major gaming events such as the League of Legends LCS World Tournament coming up, Twitch's decision to stick to their community may ultimately pay off for them in the long run. While time will tell on that front, the quick reversion does show that even non-paying consumers still have the power to influence corporate decisions.
Thanks to G3rman1a for the tip.