On Twitch, fans can subscribe to their favorite streamers, typically for $4.99 per month. Usually, that comes with minor perks like subscriber-only emotes, subscriber badges, and access to subscriber-only chat, if streamers decide to enable it. But now, streamers are getting a big addition to their arsenals: subscriber-only streams.
Previously, no matter how many subscribers a streamer accrued, streams were available to everybody. Today, however, Twitch is soft-launching subscriber streams.
“If a viewer subscribes to a channel at any tier, including a Twitch Prime subscription, they’ll have access to that creator’s Subscriber Streams,” the company wrote in a blog post. “If they’re not a subscriber and they arrive on a channel that’s running a Subscriber Stream, they’ll see a preview of what’s going on and, if they’d like, they’ll be able to join the party immediately by subscribing.”
The goal, says Twitch, is for streamers to be able to reward “superfans”—meaning subscribers, VIPs, and moderators—as they see fit. “We could definitely see competitive streamers taking requests on heroes or champions to play, tabletop streamers running a weekly campaign for Subs, music streamers making all-request set lists, and a whole lot more,” wrote Twitch.
This feature is now in beta. Streamers can use it if they’re affiliates or partners and haven’t violated Twitch’s community guidelines in the past 90 days. So basically, don’t expect Dr Disrespect’s impending return stream to be sub-only. However, this policy apparently also includes instances of audio being removed from videos because of copyrighted music—something that happens regularly to streamers, sometimes because a game they were playing randomly included an offending track. Quite a few people are also reporting that they’ve been barred from using the feature with no clear explanation of what guidelines they actually violated.
Speaking of rule-breaking, Twitch says it intends to keep subscriber-only streams “safe” via the aforementioned preview functionality, which means these streams are not private, and streamers won’t be so shielded from the public eye that they can get away with blatantly ignoring the terms of service. Or at least, that’s the hope.
So far, reactions to this announcement have been mixed. Some are excited about the possibilities, viewing this as a way to interact with their communities and another method of (hopefully) bolstering their incomes on a platform where it’s become increasingly difficult to make sustainable money. Others, however, worry about what paywalls will mean for loyal viewers who can’t always afford to subscribe.
“Just seen that twitch is now opening up for affiliates and partners to do subscriber only streams,” said streamer Cheridet on Twitter. “First thoughts are I probably won’t use this feature at all. I want all of you involved in my channel every step of the way whether you can afford to sub to me or not.”
“What a new way to alienate part of your community that can’t afford to pay to subscribe to you? We got you,” said streamer FlowerKidNena on Twitter. “Subscriber streams. Fuck bringing your community together, split them. GG Twitch.”
“I think the idea of a ‘paywall’ to enjoy someone’s stream content is a little too far,” said Twitch partner Shinobi. “I’m all for Twitch adding new consistent ways for streamers to earn a more comfortable living as the up and down swings can be tough to cope with, but this isn’t the solution.”
Some view this as a slippery slope toward a plethora of mandatory subscriptions on Twitch. For now, however, there’s no evidence to support that fear, since this feature is entirely optional, and prevailing trends on the platform would have to change a lot for everybody to start putting all their best material behind an impregnable paywall. As it stands, Twitch is a metrics-driven numbers game, and most streamers want to attract new viewers. Making most streams subscriber-only seems counterproductive to that goal. This feature, then, may be more attractive to bigger streamers who aren’t so worried about growing.
“I personally don’t like limiting my streams to subs only due to the fact not everyone has the financial means to sub and I don’t ever expect that from anyone,” said streamer and cosplayer Pikaaaliu. “But I can see how it’s enticing for big streamers.”
Many streamers also fund themselves via Patreon and produce subscriber-only content that way, so it’s not like this is an entirely new concept. Twitch is just making it an official part of the platform now. It’s entirely possible that hardly anyone will use it. It’s also possible that this feature could have ripple effects for years to come. In either case, time will tell.
“Twitch released OPTIONAL subscriber only streams today,” said popular Rainbow Six Siege streamer KingGeorge on Twitter. “Everyone is freaking out as per usual like when anything is added. If people want to use it, that’s their decision. I personally won’t be using it, though. People are acting as if half of Twitch is now sub-only viewing lol.”