Twitch’s new Guest Star mode will let anyone turn their stream into a talk show

Twitch wants to make it easier for creators to pull guests into their livestreams, talk show-style — and everybody gets to be a creator.

The company is announcing Guest Star, a new feature that will tie into existing streaming software, allowing stream hosts to bring up to five guests into a stream and swap them in and out fluidly.

Through Guest Star, streamers will be able to invite anyone with a Twitch account to hop into a stream from desktop or the Twitch mobile app. Creators can host and manage their guests directly within Twitch Studio or OBS, the tool of choice for many of the app’s more advanced streamers.

The feature will launch first to a small, invite-only cluster of Twitch users who are already active in the Just Chatting scene — the booming Twitch category where streamers casually hang out rather than focus on games. By fall, streamers who want to try Guest Star will be able to sign up for a beta and will be granted access on an ongoing basis. Later this year, Guest Star will open up to all Twitch users.

The company foresees its community using Guest Star for formats like game shows, advice columns and radio-like sports chat shows. Unlike Twitch’s Squad Stream feature, which allows four creators to stream live together but requires them to be Twitch Partners, Guest Star will eventually be available to all users regardless of how prominent they are on the platform. The decision to bring all users into the fold suggests that Twitch is widening its focus from its top-earning creators, an elite sliver of its user who bring in over half of the platform’s revenue.

Voice-only or video chat

Creators who want to pull in guests live can either invite them directly or turn on a mode that allows requests, à la raising your hand in Clubhouse or Zoom. Guests that get the nod receive a pop-up notification they can click to join in order to go live on stream.

Guest Star supports video but it will also allow creators to host voice-only streams. Even if hosts want to livestream video themselves, they can toggle a setting to make guests audio-only before they join, disabling their cameras.

During the pandemic, chat apps soared and Twitch likely recognizes that its community needs more tools to facilitate the kind of casual, fluid social spaces that made voice-only app Clubhouse a breakout hit. In late 2020, Twitch introduced a feature called Watch Parties that let creators co-watch Amazon Prime videos on-stream.

Twitch’s “Just Chatting” category has also exploded since the beginning of the pandemic. Comparing the first five months of 2022 to the first half of 2020, hours watched in the category shot up 151% and Just Chatting creator revenue grew 169%. The number of live hours from Twitch accounts that mostly streamed in the category grew by 68%.

The company anticipates that streamers will leverage the new feature for content like AMAs, coaching sessions and even political town halls.

“From a creator-to-creator standpoint, we [view] this as a great opportunity for creators to collaborate together,” Twitch Senior Product Manager Christopher Miles told TechCrunch.

He noted that Guest Star will be a big step up for streamers who are used to digging through Reddit threads and managing unreliable connections with third-party software to make their streams more collaborative.

Guest Star and safety

Given how “interactive” the product is, even by Twitch standards, Guest Star weaves in some of the platform’s latest safety tools to make the experience as smooth as possible. While Guest Star is designed to feature followers and subscribers — not just other creators — the host and any mods they work with have total control. That includes deciding who is invited to join a stream, whether they are allowed to use their camera or only their mic, if they can share their screen, right down to controlling their audio levels. Guests that break the rules can be quickly kicked out at any time.

When deciding who to spotlight through Guest Star, creators and mods can see who in the channel is a possible ban evader, a known harasser or an otherwise suspicious user that might be inclined toward bad behavior. Twitch rolled out a new safety feature for automatically detecting and flagging suspicious users back in November and that technology is now woven into the new streaming format.

In the Guest Star tool, mods and creators can see a bird’s eye view of user behavior right from the invite window, including how long a user has been a follower and past messages they’re shared in chat. Creators working with a lot of moderators can designate which mods have the power to manage Guest Star and push guests live.

Guest Star also has its own virtual green room where anyone tapped as a guest can do an audio and video check and hang out until pushed live. Mods and hosts can easily send guests back into this holding area at any time and they can also be whispered while live to make communication and coordination easier behind the scenes.

Because Guest Star ties into Twitch directly, guests that are disruptive or violate the platform’s rules can be reported — something Twitch sees as an advantage for Guest Star compared to third-party workarounds.

“Creators are already doing all these interesting things today right now,” Miles said. “Twitch wants to make this easier and safer.”