Second-screen interactive video company iPowow has created an extension for streaming platform Twitch that lets viewers pay the gamers they’re watching live and determine how the game will be played.
iPowow has worked with national programmers including Fox Sports and CNN to create live sponsored interactive elements in their programming. It has also worked with local stations to add viewer participation to their newscasts.
The new technology being unveiled Monday on Twitch could possibly be used on other platforms including TV. Viewers could pay wrestlers to hit their opponents with chairs or direct a new anchor to report on development in Europe rather than Asia using a version of the extension.
The technology could also be reversed to reward viewers for watching and interacting with programs and advertising.
Last year Twitch, with more than 15 million active viewers, introduced Bits, a currency worth a penny that can be bought to be used inside the game and cashed in by the players.
iPowow extension is one of several being used by Twitch, but it is unique in the way it handles polling and voting. Previously viewers were able to give players Bit via a chat function. With some players being watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers, the pennies can add up.
“Twitch said we’re going to supercharge the hell out of this,” said Gavin Douglas, CEO of iPowow. He said that the customizable graphics and gameplay elements iPowow is bringing to the party “makes typing in chat very 2001.”
With iPowow’s Bits Voting Studio, “it’s choose your own adventure, or as I like to call it, Hunger Games full on, because the viewers are now choosing what happens next inside the game. It['s] easy to use your bits to make thing[s] happen,” Douglas said.
For example in a fighting game, the extension box in the corner of the screen can show three weapons and give the viewer a choice of paying 1, 10 or 100 Bits to have the player use the weapon the viewer wants to see. The weapon that attracts the most Bits gets used throughout the game. Viewers often prefer to make the player use the least powerful weapon—a knife rather than gun—in order to make the game more difficult.
Because the iPowow extension appears on the main Twitch screen, in testing, participation rates are much higher than with a second-screen application.
Twitch said developers of extensions get 20% of the Bits used during games.
Watching on a TV screen and using an app, participation rates range from 4% to 10%, Douglas said. “Here, because it’s first screen and I’m watching on a laptop, phone or iPad, it is automatically clickable.” There’s no second screen involved, so the participation rates go up to as high as 50%.
“Viewers are desperate to interact with their favorite streamers, engage with the action and be part of the story,” said Douglas. “We’re thrilled that our close partnership with Twitch has led to the launch of the pro-grade Bits Voting Studio, that enables Streamers to interact with their viewers, change the story in real-time and to gain Bits.”
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.