Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek – one of the internet's most influential live streamers – today announced his triumphant, exclusive return to Twitch, the platform that made him famous after a detour to Mixer, which grossed him potentially a cool $ 10 million on Die Page went dark and his contract was paid off.
It's big business. Grzesiek was one of the biggest names in the Twitch takeover before the Mixer, and he left the site last October for greener pastures. This seemed to signal a worrying exodus of talent from Twitch to other competing live streaming platforms like YouTube, Facebook Gaming. and mixer. Ten months and one (ongoing) pandemic later, Mixer is gone and the entire live streaming landscape has changed again.
Power is back with platforms that have noticeably stopped offering exclusive contracts to streamers – Grzesiek's return to Twitch is the first step with the highest profile. (Guy "DrDispect" Beahm, who is permanently banned from Twitch and then returns to YouTube without a contract to stream, is a slightly different type of move.)
As the pandemic decimated industries across America, it actually helped keep livestreaming flourishing: according to a report released by Streamelements and Arsenal.gg, Twitch grew in terms of those between Q1 of this year and Q2 and Facebook hours watched by a full 56 percent. Gambling growth increased by 75 percent over the same period. Grzesiek's return to Twitch means his astronomical numbers – he has 7.1 million followers on Twitch at the time of this writing – will be numbered among what I'm sure will see even more growth in the second half of this year becomes.
Image: StreamElements and Arsenal.gg
Even so, it's hard not to ponder the reasons why live streaming platforms may not want to sign up new streamers for exclusive offers. First and foremost, there's the pandemic: as these platforms grow, COVID-19 has selected a number of advertisers that are an integral part of the business models of live streaming platforms. Growth doesn't necessarily mean an increase in advertising revenue later on.
Second, it's not so clear that signing streamers with seven-digit contracts brings in decent revenue. The livestreaming wars didn't start until, so to speak, after Mixer messed up the entire market by getting Tyler "Ninja" Blevins to sign on her dotted line. Now that Mixer is gone it's not exactly clear if any of the other platforms are ready to shake up the market again – it didn't exactly help platforms pay tons of money to livestreamers just to keep them there. (However, Mixer's legacy, obviously, lies in how his lucrative deals showed top livestreamers just how much they were worth.)
Personally, I think Twitch, who signed Grzesiek on an exclusive deal, had more to do with not letting him go – which was a tactical mistake! – than anything else, much like YouTube Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg signed immediately after his contract with DLive expired. In many ways, Grzesiek's homecoming could even be read as a return to the old status quo.