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2014 in review: Twitch

With 2014 coming to a close, Shacknews is taking a look back at some of the major newsmakers of the past year. While the major console creators all made their fair share of headlines, there were also several other entities that made their own set of waves. Among those with an impact on gaming this year was Twitch.

Twitch entered the year already having become a major presence in gaming, with integration set into both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. As it turned out, the good times were just starting to roll with Twitch.tv.

March 6: Twitch becomes the convention destination

Twitch has become far more than a venue for watching others play video games. It has gradually become a media entity unto itself. That became more evident on June 9, when Twitch became the official broadcasting home of the E3 expo.

For the average gamer that couldn't attend the convention, Twitch had them covered. Their dedicated staff would not only deliver each of the media briefings from the major console makers and game publishers, but they would also offer their own panels that would break down the many announcements. Twitch's schedule would run for the entire day, offering glimpses into the coming year's most anticipated releases and giving their community a chance to discuss it over a chat window.

Twitch's jump into E3 represented a monumental moment for new media. The gaming public would no longer rely on cable channels like Spike TV or the defunct G4 to bring them into a major event like E3. Entry was now a click away, either through a desktop or laptop or through their gaming console. This was just the beginning for Twitch, who would go on to successfully broadcast events like Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, PlayStation Experience, BlizzCon, and more.

May 18: Google rumored to acquire Twitch

It was a seemingly mundane weekend morning until Variety suddenly reported that Google was stepping in to acquire Twitch for $1 billion. It was a move that sent shockwaves throughout the gaming world with the sense that Google had cornered the gaming content creation market, given that it was already proud owner of YouTube.

While Variety was certain of its sources, the Wall Street Journal was quick to note that the deal was far from final. In fact, they went as far as to say that Twitch was searching for revenue avenues that did not involve a sale. The back-and-forth would result in rumors that would persist for months, with Twitch users suddenly feeling wary. Given Google's poor record of false flags and unanswered appeals on YouTube, they may have had good reason to be. A new policy that would be enacted months later was not about to alleviate any of those fears, either.

August 6: The day the music died

Twitch has always provided an atmosphere of freedom when streaming video games, but with rumors of a sale continuing to run rampant, some policy changes were in order. On August 6, seemingly out of the blue, Twitch made the decision to begin flagging archived clips and highlights for copyrighted music. The policy moving forward was that any footage with copyrighted music would be muted. The change began immediately, not only moving forward, but with thousands of clips retroactively flagged instantaneously.

The move was largely lambasted by Twitch users, especially given the prospect of an ineffective YouTube-like appeals process. Suddenly, users needed to comb through a full library of clips to either export onto YouTube or send to the appeals process if they were flagged in error. It wasn't just the average user falling victim to false flags, either. Valve found itself in violation of using its own music on one of its streams, while other entities like Sony Online Entertainment found some of its event streams muted because of perceived copyright violations. Playthroughs for games like Grand Theft Auto V and Saints Row IV, which had licensed soundtracks, were suddenly in danger of being flagged. In short, the entire implementation was a mess.

Shacknews outlined many of the dangers of this new policy the next day in an opinion piece and these are issues that still persist for a number of users. Many pointed the finger at Google, suspecting that their rumored acquisition of Twitch was leading to the exact same draconian policy they had previously enacted with YouTube. Little did anyone know that a new party was about to swoop in right under Google's nose and snatch up Twitch for themselves.

August 25: Amazon buys Twitch for $1 billion

After months of a rumored sale to Google, Amazon emerged out of nowhere as a prospective buyer for Twitch. Media and interested followers didn't have to sweat out months of rumors this time, either. Mere hours later, the sale was final and Amazon picked up Twitch for the $1 billion price tag that Google was rumored to have been floating around for months.

Amazon had been making the jump into gaming for months, with an entire Fire gaming initiative underway. The Twitch purchase was the retailer's boldest move yet, allowing them to offer the streaming service its near-unlimited resources and a framework to shape into something even stronger. The possibilities for Twitch remain tantalizing, especially given the many incentives that can be rolled into Amazon Prime.

The fruits of the purchase are just beginning to blossom, with Amazon certain to reveal more in 2015. Whether Amazon can truly make the Twitch purchase pay off for them, however, remains to be seen.

What to expect in 2015

As mentioned, there's a lot that Amazon can do with Twitch. Whether any of that comes to fruition in 2015 is uncertain. Given Amazon's focus on its own in-house gaming initiative, some sort of Twitch integration seems like a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, Twitch will likely continue to cement its stronghold on covering events. Given the banner job it did with E3 in 2014, expect more strong coverage, beginning with the inaugural PAX South in January. Also, expect Twitch to remain the go-to home for eSports, covering monumental events like The International, the League of Legends Championships, Evo, and more.

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