When it comes to streaming live video game entertainment, Twitch trounces small competitors like Kamcord and Hitbox. With an average of more than half a million viewers watching Twitch at any one time, Twitch can make even YouTube Gaming look small.
But Twitch’s continued dominance is by no means a sure thing. In fact, its very size may make it vulnerable since even seemingly modest changes in technology can require major infrastructure overhauls.
Underscoring the precariousness of Twitch’s position, Hitbox today announced it had raised $4 million to expand into Twitch’s home turf in North America. Granted, that’s less than 1 percent of the $970 million that Amazon paid for Twitch last year. But what caught our eye was the participation in the round of Wargaming, the developer and publisher of World of Tanks and World of Warships.
Wargaming’s free-to-play MMOs boasts 150 million users worldwide. The games are popular on Twitch, and Wargaming was one of marquee sponsors of TwitchCon. However, on Tuesday Sean Lee, Wargaming’s chief strategy officer, made it clear that the company does not see Twitch as the only streaming service in town.
“Supporting live streaming for our games and fans has always been a key pillar of our online presence,” Lee said in a statement published on the Hitbox website. “Hitbox allows us to truly make live streaming an extension of Wargaming and our titles through the ability to integrate game data into the broadcast. Gamers will be able to share their experiences easier than ever before and our channels will have the robust infrastructure AAA gaming demands.”
According to the statement, Lee will also join Hitbox’s board of directors. Wargaming has also made a significant investment in Kamcord, which focuses on streaming from mobile devices.
The recent Hitbox round was led by Speedinvest, a VC firm based in Vienna and included North Base Media, along with angel investors.
Calling Twitch the “previous monopolist,” Oliver Holle, the CEO of Speedinvest said that Hitbox was well placed to win market share in eSports. “With Hitbox’s laser focus on the gaming community and its superior technology, we see nothing but growth,” Holle said.
Hitbox is promising to broadcast eSports at 4k resolution and 60 frames per second. It’s unclear, however, how many broadcasters or viewers have the gear they need to benefit from the increase in quality. It’s also unclear how the infrastructure provided by local ISPs will respond given that HD videos already frequently pause, stutter and buffer.
According to Venture Beat, Hitbox currently has around 6 million users, compared to more than 100 million monthly active users on Twitch. However, unlike Twitch, which only compensates a tiny fraction of its 1.7 million broadcasters, Hitbox offers all broadcasters a 50-50 share of video advertising revenue.