‘Like a live version of Netflix’s Bandersnatch’: Twitch pitches branded games

Branded choose-your-own-adventure-style games are coming to Twitch.

The Amazon-owned video site for gamers is talking to advertisers about buying their own interactive streams. Like Netflix’s plan to fund its own interactive TV shows, Twitch is pitching advertisers and agencies a hybrid of a livestream — where the viewer sits back and watches — and video games, where the player controls the protagonist. For a platform that’s regularly criticized by viewers for having too many ads, Twitch is betting on branded games as a way to make ads less of a jarring consumer experience on the platform.

Porsche is the first advertiser to test whether gamers will opt for a branded choose-your-own-adventure over one of their favorite streamers. Porsche wanted to promote its first electrical racing car to a younger audience of 18- to 34-year-olds but wanted to do so in a way that wasn’t reliant on traditional TV and radio buys, said Adam Harris, director of custom solutions in Europe for Twitch.

There’s a lot of crossover between racing and gaming, which is why several car advertisers have stepped up efforts to target gamers, with some like Kia focusing on sponsoring esports events while others like Porsche coveting the more than 15 million active users Twitch claims watch its streams daily.

Porsche’s first game on Twitch, launched yesterday, Aug. 28, has been produced like a virtual-reality experience. Viewers who played it directed two drivers around a real Porsche facility over four hours. At certain points during the livestream, viewers were able to vote on how each of the drivers tackled a series of puzzles like a giant escape room. Once the challenges were completed, the advertiser’s new Porsche Formula E race car was revealed.

It wasn’t too dissimilar to the Bandersnatch interactive movie on Netflix, said Harris.

Viewers, for the most part, seemed to like the approach. There were around 28,000 views of the Porsche-branded game at any given second during the live broadcast, while the total number of views since the broadcast began hit 2 million, according to Twitch. Harris wouldn’t share figures on how many people interacted with the game. Typically, concurrent views for Twitch’s most popular streamer Ninja hovered around the 40,000 in the weeks leading up to his move to rival gaming video site Mixer.

“Bandersnatch made people realize that the choose-your-own-adventure-game has legs,” said Harris. The campaign for Porsche paves the way for Twitch’s in-house creative team to create so-called “real-life games,” where viewers control the campaign, said Harris, who serves as the video site’s creative director in the region. “We’re looking to creative narratives and stories that can last the course of a stream where we can actually allow viewers to control the content they’re watching,” said Harris.

However, advertisers could take some convincing before they invest due to certain challenges. For instance, advertisers need to cede control over to audiences for them to work, which could lead to campaigns being hijacked by Twitch viewers who can be quite antagonistic toward brands at times. Plus, branded games can cost more than your typical ad campaign on Twitch, which can range from $2 to $10 per CPM, said one agency executive who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern of damaging commercial deals with the site.

On brand safety, Harris said Twitch would only use partnered streamers to develop potential branded games to ensure brands were kept away from inappropriate content. Moves are also being made to explore how the interactive overlays that sit over the branded games can be easily adapted for different game ideas, and therefore cheaper for advertisers.

If advertisers are able to fork over the money to appear in an interactive game on Twitch, then the money is likely to come from TV budgets, said Charlie Riggall, account director at Universal McCann London. “As brands change the way they plan media campaigns, they’re no longer thinking about the audiovisual component of that as ITV and then the ITV player catch-up service,” said Riggall. “They’re thinking about platforms like Twitch and YouTube as part of that approach now to make sure that overall video reach is good.”

Twitch has been working toward interactive branded games for some time. In 2014, it launched Twitch Plays Pokemon as a crowdsourced attempt to play the popular game. Four years later, it worked with Warner Bros. on a game that let viewers control a version of video game character Lara Croft through a series of different puzzles in a group chat feature.

Image courtesy of Porsche. 


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