eSports are highly popular and there are millions of people watching competitions in which they follow their favorite teams and eAthletes. Most eAthletes stream their gaming sessions when they’re not playing competitive games. On popular streaming services like Twitch and YouTube the layout is designed in a way that the streamer can really interact with the fans, the fans can directly talk with the streamer and influence the decisions. Those streams are highly based on interaction and allows the audience to build a strong relationship with the eAthletes. This type of relationship is unique and is something that will only grow to become more and more popular. This is the next step in consuming entertainment.
An important part of the stream is feeling part of the community, this can be the community of the game he/she is watching or the community of the streamer who is playing. Because of the chat functionality the viewers are constantly in touch with other people from all around the world. The research: ‘Why do people watch others play video games? An empirical study on the motivations of Twitch users’ from Max Sjöblom and Juho Hamari shows that social factors are an important aspect of the experience in streaming. The feeling of being part of a community increases the amount of streams people watch, besides that it has also been shown to be the strongest factor for people to follow and subscribe to streamers.
Because live-streams are one of the most personal experience in mass digital entertainment it is really valuable for the streamer because they can build a good relationship with the viewer. As viewer it gives the possibility to interact with their ‘hero’. Some streamers have got some subscriptions which allow users to unlock exclusive emoticons for in the chat or sometimes even access to subscriber-only streams. The community feeling of streamers reaches further than only in the stream themselves, most of the streamers are also active on social media as well and keep in touch with their fans via those platforms, Twitter has been shown to be the most popular platform for gaming communities. Not only do they use social media to stay in touch with their fans, their fans also use social media to create their own content related to the streamer, there are people making fansites/accounts, and also people creating fanart like posters, banners or funny pictures in relation to the streamers.
Another important feature of the streams is co-creation. The relationship between the viewer and the streamer has shifted from a one-sided approach to a relationship in which both mutual collaborate with each other and all add to the total experience. In some games viewers can help decide a strategy that the player should play, in other games viewers let the streamer play the maps or levels that the viewer has built for them. Sometimes the streamers invite viewers to join their game or their team and play together with or in teams against each other. This adds to a bigger sense of belonging and satisfies the needs that viewers have. The viewers of streams are satisfied on different levels of gratification (cognitive, affective, social, tension release and personal integrative).
A new approach
For some people certain types of streams are not fulfilling their needs, if a person is looking for recognition and joins a stream with many viewers there will probably be a lot of chaos in the chat. This will most likely result for a lot viewers to be overlooked by the streamer and by other people in the chat. A person who’s looking for recognition might watch more unknown streamers with lower amount of viewers because this gives them more space for interaction in the chat. Postmodern communication cannot stick to the traditional principles of IMC but need to be more open and flexible to keep up with the postmodern world. In the world of eSports and online streaming they are really allowing customers to participate and allow them to develop meanings together with the entire community.
Consumers should not only seen as targets, but as collaborators or partners in generation of meanings for the organization’s offerings. In the streams the streamers listen to their viewers, interact directly with the fans and allow them to co-create. When the consumers in the postmodern market insist on being involved in the creation of life meanings and experiences is the sure way to lose control. But by handling this in the right way by allowing the right amount of interaction and co-creation gives them even more control than they would’ve had otherwise in this highly dynamic market. It is clear that these type of streams are a new experience which is highly popular. The risk of losing control over the image is relatively low and the high amount of interaction makes the community promote the gamer even more than would be possible to do with a more traditional marketing approach.