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Verizon and Twitch hurl 5G at game-streaming to see what sticks

Verizon has partnered with game-streaming behemoth Twitch to see whether 5G can unlock any new and compelling experiences for those who like to watch competitive videogaming.

The US telco is now the official 5G and 4G LTE network partner of Twitch Rivals North America, an esports tournament for, you guessed it, Twitch streamers. Normally when viewing a Twitch stream, the user sees the action taking place in the game and a picture-in-picture view of the player. There is also a chatbox so viewers and players can interact.

Verizon and Twitch think there is scope for using high-speed mobile to enable something more exciting, and the two companies hope to discover exactly what that is during the course of their partnership.

“From evolving the way creators and fans watch and play, to creating new, immersive ways for the massive gaming community to connect through augmented online and in-person experiences, the combination of Twitch’s influence and the impact 5G will have on the gaming industry opens incredible doors for innovation,” claimed Verizon’s chief media officer John Nitti, in a statement.

“We look forward to partnering with Verizon to bring together the combination of competitive gaming, streamers, sports, celebrity, and entertainment under Rivals, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for the Rivals franchise,” added Walker Jacobs, Twitch’s chief revenue officer.

Gaming, and particularly esports, is fast becoming a new big battleground for telcos and Internet giants alike.

For its part, Verizon has been busy striking sponsorship deals and partnerships in an effort to claw its way into the limelight.

In July, it became the network partner for esports tournament organiser FaZe Clan. That followed a similar deal in June, when Verizon was unveiled as network partner and sponsor for Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series (LCS).

Vodafone has adopted a similar approach on this side of the pond, partnering with esports organiser ESL to launch a 5G mobile gaming tournament. Spanish incumbent Telefonica is also betting big on esports, sponsoring and broadcasting tournaments, and backing efforts to uncover fresh new gaming talent.

However, the growth of esports has taken a slight hit this year, as major tournaments – normally hosted in arenas in front of thousands of fans – have either been postponed, cancelled or gone online-only thanks to the pandemic. Gaming stats firm Newzoo in April lowered its global esports revenue outlook for 2020 to $1.06 billion from $1.1 billion. In July, that forecast was lowered again to $973.9 million.

“Uncertainty in the market means many companies are decreasing marketing budgets to preserve capital, which will have a knock-on effect on start-of-year revenues for 2021,” said Remer Rietkerk, heads of esports at Newzoo, in a research note at the time.

By the same token, lockdown has led to an increase in the number of people playing and watching videogames. In addition, according to Newzoo, the average daily play time for the shooter genre alone grew from 38 minutes in December 2019 to 60 minutes this March.

Until the world returns to something that more closely-resembles normal, it makes sense then for Verizon to try and tap into this increased interest in game streaming.

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