Twitch to start selling video games as soon as this week [Updated]

Video game streaming site Twitch will soon begin selling PC games and other in-game content on its site, the company says. We understand the games may arrive as soon as tomorrow or later this week, though the exact timing is still in flux*. Already one of the top destinations for live streaming and fan engagement, it’s not surprising that Twitch would take the final step to become a video game retailer as well, especially considering the company is owned by Amazon.

*[Update: The games were slightly delayed, and rolled out on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.]

Twitch’s move to become a game retailer was announced earlier this year with plans for a spring arrival.

However, unlike traditional online retailers, Twitch offers several incentives to encourage Twitch users to buy from its site. Game buyers will receive a free Twitch Crate, which will include an assortment of items that can be used on its site while watching streams and interacting with other users. For example, there may be exclusive emotes (Twitch’s own emojis), chat badges and Bits for Cheering – items that typically cost Twitch users money to acquire.

These Twitch Crates will be doled out to any purchases, games or otherwise, that cost $4.99 or more.

At launch, there will be around 50 titles and related in-game content available for purchase, Twitch says, up from the couple dozen announced earlier.

The debut lineup includes Ubisoft’s For Honor and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands; Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead and Minecraft: Story Mode; Hi-Rez Studios’ SMITE and Paladins; Paradox Interactive’s Tyranny; Trion Worlds’ Atlas Reactor; Double Fine Productions’ Broken Age and Psychonauts; Campo Santo’s Firewatch; Jackbox Games’ Jackbox Party Pack 3; and Digital Extremes’ Warframe, among others. The games will roll out starting today and over the next week.

The Partnered streamers who have opted into this new commerce program will earn 5 percent for the sales from their channel, Twitch says. The game publishers, meanwhile, earn 70 percent of revenue for the game sales.

The games and the in-game items will be made available for sale on Twitch channel and game detail pages, and Twitch’s streamers will become the site’s salesforce and marketing team, in a sense.

Partnered streamers will be able to earn money from the purchases made on their channel pages, which gives them an incentive to encourage their fans to buy. This could lead to problems down the road, if streamers begin promoting titles for the cash and not because they truly  like and recommend them. But streamers who dare to cross that line would likely be called out by fans, and could risk their reputation.

We’ve already seen how the infusion of advertising has had an impact on YouTube, where creators haven’t disclosed their relationships with brands, or are using products in their videos without acknowledging that they’ve received compensation for doing so. Similarly, Twitch streamers will need to be upfront when they tout a title that’s available for sale, in order to be transparent with their audience.

But the very fact that there are games to now sell could impact streamers’ plans on what to play next – subtly shifting the type of content on Twitch to those that favor the gaming companies participating in Twitch’s marketplace.

The games are available for download through the Twitch Desktop App. The company announced earlier this month it would be relaunching the Curse app – from the company it acquired last year – as a revamped Twitch Desktop. The new app includes community servers, voice and video messaging, and aims to serve as the home for Twitch’s game content distribution system. The app was scheduled to arrived ahead of the launch of game downloads.

The move into game sales puts Twitch up against other game marketplaces like Steam and Valve, but has a strong social network to pull in more sales. The company’s website tout 9.7 million daily active users, including over 2 million unique streamers per month and over 17,000 Partnered Program members.

The company is kicking off the launch of game sales with a Twitch Crates Gear Giveaway promotion, offering a chance at winning games and streaming gear, and a grand prize of over $500 in pro streaming equipment, now through April.