Up until this week, Amazon Games wasn’t exactly batting a thousand. Its most notable achievement of the year was releasing Crucible, a team-based shooter that flopped so hard it had to be un-released. Its upcoming MMO, New World, is off to a much stronger start, in part because Twitch streamers are involved in a bigger way.
New World, a fantasy MMO whose name, setting, and visual design evoke colonialism and which is being made by a company named after a river that’s served as a conduit for the ravages of colonialism, but which developers say has “nothing to do with colonialism,” is not set to launch until spring 2021. However, the game kicked off a test event earlier this week that positioned it at the top of both Twitch and Steam for multiple days. On August 25, the first day people were allowed to stream and post videos/impressions, the game peaked at over 300,000 concurrent viewers across Twitch, nearly triple Crucible’s all-time launch-day peak of just over 100,000 concurrent viewers. Crucible’s numbers also pretty much immediately dropped off, whereas New World seems to have some momentum—at least, if the past few days are any indication.
Part of this early success can be attributed to the fact that Amazon seems to be making better use of Twitch this time around after conspicuously failing to meaningfully leverage gaming’s premiere hype engine—which it owns and frequently touts as a tool in Amazon Games’ tool belt alongside Amazon Web Services—in the lead up to Crucible’s launch. Multiple streamers have said that Amazon sent them 100 New World keys, which they’ve offered as giveaway prizes to viewers. This is a tried-and-true tactic to get people to watch Twitch streams of games that are either new or aren’t yet out, one that’s done wonders for the likes of Valorant and Fall Guys.
Amazon does not seem to be paying streamers, who have not disclosed sponsorships in stream titles or otherwise indicated that they’ve received money—something they’re required to do if payment or promotion are explicitly on the table. Specifically, Twitch’s rules state that streamers must follow FTC guidelines: “If you have been paid or provided with free products in exchange for discussing or promoting a product or service through the Twitch Services, or if you are an employee of a company and you decide to discuss or promote that company’s products or services through the Twitch Services, you agree to comply with the FTC Guidelines’ requirements for disclosing such relationships,” read Twitch’s terms of service.
Free keys, however, are squishier territory. Companies can give them to streamers without asking for promotion, but ultimately, they still receive it if a streamer opts to play the game. Key giveaways are exceedingly popular with viewers on Twitch, which further incentivizes streamers to play ball. To wit: Riot and Mediatonic also did not pay streamers when both had their big moments on Twitch earlier this year. That said, you can also gain access to the New World test event, which runs until September 5, by preordering the game on Steam, so prospective players have more options than they often do during Twitch-centric promotions that seek to really game the system.
New World is also staring down the musket barrel of relative success because, unlike Crucible, it’s catering to fans of a genre whose recent high-profile options have been limited. Everyone on earth right now is making team shooters. Meanwhile, fatigue is setting in around games like Overwatch. It’s been more than a decade, however, since big fantasy MMO launches were a dime a dozen. Despite this, genre stalwarts like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV remain popular, and events like races to get the world-first kill on new raid bosses have taken on lives of their own on Twitch—to the point that developers have begun to adapt their methods to account for them. With WoW Classic cooling off and WoW: Shadowlands not arriving until October, however, things are relatively quiet in that corner of Twitch at the moment. That, says popular WoW streamer Asmongold, who has also been streaming New World this week after Amazon sent him 100 keys, is another reason it’s broken out in a way that Crucible could not.
“I think a lot of people who are WoW players and just MMO players in general are always looking forward to the next ‘WoW killer’ or something like that,” Asmongold told Kotaku in DM. “Also there’s not a lot going on in WoW so you see a lot of people who would normally play that game playing this instead.”
Amazon appears to have been smarter with which streamers it got involved this time, too. While a handful of popular streamers like DrLupo and TimTheTatman played Crucible when it launched, it fell well short of ascending into Twitch’s zeitgeist and becoming a game of interest on the platform. New World, on the other hand, has managed to make a lasting first impression—or at least, an existent one.
“Just streamer value, seeing Shroud and Sodapoppin and a lot of the other guys—Summit[1g], for example—playing it makes it much more appealing and gives it artificially more value,” said Asmongold.