You might think that a website that streams billions of hours of first-person shooter games would have learned to avoid self-inflicted injuries. You’d be wrong.
Brian Ashcraft, a contributing writer to Kotaku, provides an excellent analysis of Twitch’s blunders in Japan this week in his piece “Twitch’s Uphill Battle for Japan.”
Twitch’s main missteps, according to Ashcraft, are:
1. A failure of the site to default to Japanese for Japanese visitors.
2. A failure to localize all of the text on Twitch for Japanese visitors.
3. A failure to adapt home page content to the tastes of Japanese gamers, who prefer mobile games, console games and arcade games.
While these might seem like basic oversights that can be easily corrected, Twitch can’t afford anything less than perfect execution. More than 90 percent of Japanese in their twenties already have an account on Niconico, a Japanese streaming service, Ashcraft reports. Niconico is designed for Japanese aesthetic tastes, which include streaming comments in an overlay that can sometimes take over the entire screen.
Twitch is proud of its international presence. At TwitchCon, CEO Emmett Shear bragged that Twitch viewers hail from all over the globe. “Whether you live in Japan or Brazil, we want to support you on our platform,” he said. “We now have 22 points of presence across 17 regions, and we are adding more every day. Our platform supports 28 locals, so whatever language you speak, you are going to be able to use Twitch to connect with gamers around the world.”
But if Twitch’s localization efforts in Japan are any reflection of its localization attempts elsewhere, opportunities for gamer-to-gamer connection could be in danger of being stunted. Some Japanese gamers do use Twitch—for example, there are at least 40 members of the United Stream of Japan team—but many more use Niconico.
One can only hope that the best metaphor for Twitch in Japan will not turn out to be this video of a Japanese broadcaster struggling to put out a fire that started when he accidentally dropped a lit cigarette on stream.