Twitch announced today that it will release major updates to its Emotes this month to celebrate its 10th anniversary. These new features will include Animated Emotes, Follower Emotes and a Library for Emotes.
Since the origin of the livestreaming platform for gamers, Emotes — Twitch’s version of emojis — have been a key component of Twitch culture. They’re micro memes, and images like Kappa, TriHard and PogChamp have come to carry meaning in the greater gaming world, even off the Twitch platform.
“Emotes are a language that transcends countries,” said Ivan Santana, senior director of Community Product at Twitch. “Anywhere you are in the world, they mean the same thing for us.”
The Amazon-owned platform regularly adds new global Emotes, which can be used on any streamer’s channel. Individual creators can make custom Emotes for their own community, which paying subscribers can use across the platform. But the ability to add animated gifs as Emotes is something that the community has been asking for since Santana can remember.
“I’ve been at Twitch for four years, and it’s something people have been asking for since before I joined,” Santana told TechCrunch. “It’s certainly been a very, very long time.”
Streamers who lack animation skills need not worry. While the more tech-savvy among us can upload custom gifs, Twitch will provide six templates for streamers to choose from, which can animate their existing Emotes. These animations include Shake, Rave, Roll, Spin, Slide In and Slide Out. Viewers who are sensitive to animations will be able to turn off the feature in their Chat Settings.
Twitch is also beta testing Follower Emotes, which will be available to select Partners and Affiliates. This feature creates a fun, free incentive for viewers to hit the follow button on a channel they might be checking out for the first time. When viewers follow a channel, they’ll be notified when the creator is streaming, which can lead to an eventual subscription. Twitch takes 50% of streamers’ subscription money, creating a valuable revenue stream for the company.
In Q1 of 2021, Twitch viewership hit an all-time high, growing 16.5% since the previous quarter. Twitch viewers watched 6.34 billion hours of content in Q1, making up 72.3% of the market share. That’s double the total hours watched on Twitch in Q1 of 2020. Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming earned 12.1% and 15.6% of viewership in the sector, respectively.
“For a long time, creators have been asking for better ways to attract and welcome new viewers into their channel,” said Santana. “The idea is generally to create a lot of excitement around that community, and more feelings ultimately of community.”
Creators with beta access will be able to upload up to five Emotes for their followers, but unlike Subscriber Emotes, followers won’t be able to use these across other channels. There’s no guarantee that Follower Emotes will be here to stay — Santana says it’s a feature Twitch is “experimenting” with — but if all goes well, the feature will roll out more widely later in the year.
Finally, the Library function will make it easier for creators to swap Emotes in and out of subscription tiers without having to delete and reupload them each time. This builds upon an upgrade that launched in January, which centralized channel-specific icons into an Emotes tab on the Creator Dashboard. As usual, new Emotes have to be approved by Twitch before they’re put into use. The Library will roll out soon to all Partners and Affiliates, staggered over a few months to account for an expected increase in volume of new Emotes.
“As Twitch has scaled, we now have millions of communities across many different cultures across the world,” Santana said. “We can hand over more of the controls of our Emote language to our community, and let them sort of evolve in a way that we never could imagine that ultimately serves them in their unique ways.”
Twitch teased that there’s more in the works to celebrate the platform’s 10th anniversary, including an official 10-Year celebration.