TwitchCon is one of the most interesting aspects of the gaming industry to arise. Now in its second year (or third, depending on who you ask), the gaming event revolving around the online streaming service made its way from the Moscone Center in San Francisco to occupying roughly 40% of the massive San Diego Convention Center. With one section dedicated to panels and the other all about booths, merch, and attention-grabbing displays, the constantly-growing event was seeing its largest showing yet. Even the mighty Microsoft was on board, showcasing their new Xbox One S console in four different flavors and offering one of the first few playable demos of the Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee.
TwitchCon is surely interesting. There’s a big discrepancy in the focus when compared to other events like PAX and E3. E3 is certainly more industry-oriented, with the focus being on new technologies and budding ideas, while PAX definitely has that, but shifts its focus to a more community-centric view. TwitchCon, by contrast, is like a collection of rockstars all gathered in one place to interact with their fans. Here are these individuals with tens of thousands of viewers, sometimes DAILY, who are figurative rockstars in their own right gathering under one roof to make new connections, be it with companies or fans. Coming from a musical background, this is the streamer equivalent of musical greats congregating under one roof to just, well, hang out with one another and people who enjoy what they create.
TwitchCon isn’t just about the streamers, however, as there was a fine selection of games on display, as well as stream-centric hardware and software. Certain gaming highlights included the ever-so-musical Just Shapes & Beats, while Rivals of Aether was there to fill a niche that could only be sated by the likes of Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube. The New Bloods were showing off their Quake-inspired shooter Dusk, while Shadow Warrior 2 in all its sword-wielding, gun-touting glory was there with its own bloodshed. Several more titles that would make any gamer’s hands waver in anticipation. There was certainly no shortage of hands-on availability, no matter what kind of games you were interested in (save for real-time strategy titles, sorry), there was something there for streamers and players of all shapes and sizes. There was a surprising lack of virtual reality titles, especially with the recent push for the new technology, but it makes sense that TwitchCon was more focused on games that excel in the streaming realm.
The most interesting thing about TwitchCon, though, was just how connected everyone was. Not to say interpersonal connections, from one to another, but the extreme focus on just being online. There were several dozen people streaming to Twitch from their phones, one gentleman with a wild apparatus (dubbed “The Apparatus”) that provided him with an outward facing webcam, an inward facing webcam, and a green screen on his body as he wandered the convention floor providing really intense coverage. The connected nature of Twitch was in full effect at TwitchCon 2016, but it’s quite wild to experience it for yourself. It feels far less casual than, say, streaming a jaunt in Tulsa, OK to your personal Facebook page, like some of the Novy team did at XPO. These are the people that take streaming seriously. It’s an occupation for them, a lifestyle, and they harbor a deep passion for it.
TwitchCon is certainly a foray into a new realm for yours truly. As someone who has only occasionally wandered into this part of the industry, being suddenly immersed in it and surrounded by not just up-and-coming streamers, but those deeply embedded in the culture and well-established was certainly an experience. This may just be the motivation to be something more than a casual streamer.