On June 20, Twitch announced a deal with Blizzard, owner and creator of Overwatch. As part of this deal, Twitch will host two of the biggest Overwatch tournaments: the APEX League and Premier Series, along with other Blizzard esports tournaments. Further, Twitch Prime users will get a lot of free loot.
This is a great moment for Overwatch players and fans. But this deal was not just created for them. When you look behind the curtain, you’ll find Amazon’s marketing team hard at work.
Twitch is currently a subsidiary of Amazon.com, who has been increasingly expanding into the esports market over the last several years. In 2010, Amazon bought Reflexive Entertainment. Two years later, it developed Amazon Game Studios as a subsidiary specializing in game development. 2014 saw Amazon make a strong commitment toward the esports industry. In that year, it merged Reflexive Entertainment into Amazon Game Studios in 2014 and it purchased both Double Helix Games and Twitch as well.
Twitch began almost as an accident, but in less than a decade it has become the go-to streaming source for esports tournaments, streaming, and other content. Currently, it’s viewing services are free to anyone, while a Twitch Prime membership is available at an extra cost. This membership allows viewers to skip past all the ads and receive special in-game content in several games.
But there’s a catch.
You can only get a Twitch Prime membership with an Amazon Prime membership. Now that doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, Amazon Prime includes thousands of movies and TV shows, millions of ad-free songs, and unlimited free two-day shipping on all eligible purchases. Twitch Prime just seems like an added benefit. But Amazon now appears to be using this benefit as a marketing tool to draw esports fans to purchase its Prime service by offering a free Overwatch Gold Loot Box, which includes at least one legendary item to anyone who purchases by August 10.
As most players know, items in Overwatch rank as either Standard (White), Rare (Blue), Epic (Purple) or Legendary (Orange). Standard items are most common and Legendary are the least, appearing only 2.55% of the time. To be assured of a free legendary item is a big deal. Amazon/Twitch seem to be using this as a means of marketing to Overwatch fans. And the gifts/marketing don’t stop there.
Twitch Prime users will also receive 10 free Standard Loot Boxes over the coming months. These might not contain a legendary item, but it’s certainly another incentive to try out that free Amazon Prime membership they keep advertising. The current price of 11 loot boxes is $9.99, only $1 less than the $10.99 monthly membership of Amazon Prime. But giving away 10 loot boxes, or even more than that, won’t hurt Amazon in the long run. These are, after all, virtual products. No packaging. No shipping. No assembling. Just pure profit.
As the esports industry continues to expand, this deal between Twitch and Blizzard is not just meant to benefit long-time fans. It is a promotional opportunity for Amazon to market toward a growing demographic and give esports players and fans a reason to buy their monthly service.
And the deal goes even farther than Overwatch.
Blizzard is also the owner and creator of many other games which will be receiving the Twitch treatment. Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm players can also expect to receive free gifts and in-game content from their Twitch Prime accounts as well. And Twitch will be hosting 18 other esports tournaments including Heroes of the Storm Global Championship, StarCraft II World Championship Series, Hearthstone Championship Tour and Global Games, and World of Warcraft Arena Championship. These are some of the most watched esports tournaments every year.
Amazon has spent billions entering the esports industry, and they are going to do everything they can to make their investment pay off. Purchasing Twitch alone cost the company $970 million. The Blizzard-Twitch deal is just one of many avenues in which Amazon is slowing becoming a major player in this growing market.
By hosting their tournaments through Twitch and giving free virtual gifts to players of many different Blizzard esports, Amazon is poised to become a major player in the esports industry. With a large and growing influence over some of the biggest tournaments, Amazon will gain huge amounts of advertisement revenue during these tournaments with an increasing number of mediums. Even the longtime haters of Amazon may soon become avid devotees.