August 12, 2020
Amazon debuted Prime Gaming this week, a rebranding of its first foray into the video game industry, Twitch Prime, which offers exclusive game content and free subscriptions to Twitch, the live-streaming site. There, users could enjoy free games from small studios, discounts for bigger titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and in-game gear. Prime Gaming will include those features and offer more titles and exclusive content, accessible without a Twitch account. Meanwhile, a group of artists has demanded that Amazon pay to license music streaming on Twitch.
The New York Times reports that Prime Gaming director Larry Plotnick said, “the gaming service started in 2016 with Twitch’s name attached because it was well known among gamers,” but now Amazon feels that, in supporting game developers and reaching out to customers, “the Prime Gaming brand creates a lot more value in that ecosystem.”
Plotnick also stated that Twitch Prime is “one of the fastest-growing parts of Amazon Prime,” although he didn’t reveal numbers. Newzoo revealed that 2.7 billion people are “projected to play a game this year,” a number that has risen as COVID-19 keeps more people at home. Global gamers are “expected to spend nearly $160 billion this year.”
Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for $970 million, but its recent introduction of “Crucible,” “a free-to-play multiplayer shooter game produced by a subsidiary of Amazon Game Studios” turned out to be a flop. Steam Charts said the game averaged only 360 simultaneous players in June. Amazon pulled the game last month.
Variety reports that, “in a letter Monday addressed to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, the nonprofit Artist Rights Alliance cited Bezos’ testimony during a House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on July 29” when he admitted that he didn’t know if Twitch “allowed users to stream unlicensed music.” The ARA letter stated, in part, “as Twitch uses music to grow its audience and shape its brand, the company owes creators more than the willful blindness and vague platitudes you offered during your congressional testimony.”
ARA board members, including notable musicians, music managers, label execs and producers signed the letter, which added its appreciation for Amazon services offering “properly licensed” music.
In addition to unlicensed music, ARA accuses Twitch of showing “unwillingness to do anything beyond the most minimal and inadequate effort to process takedown requests” under the U.S.’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In Q2 2020, Twitch delivered about 5 billion hours of live streamed content, up 83 percent year-over-year according to a Streamlabs/Stream Hatchet report. Researcher eMarketer expects Twitch to top 40 million users in the U.S. by next year.
The ARA letter also “asks Bezos to explain what Amazon and Twitch are doing to implement a program under which they will pay royalties to songwriters and musicians.”