Media. Culture & Society

The impacts of live streaming and on the video game industry

by Mark R. Johnson & Jamie Woodcock (2018)

This article explores the growing importance of live streaming, specifically on website and platform, to the games industry. We focus not on live streaming as a form of media production and consumption, but instead explore its newly central role in the contemporary political economy of the whole video games ecosystem. We explore three cases: streaming newly released games and the attendant role of streaming in informing consumer choice; the visibility and added lifespan that streaming is affording to independent and niche games and older games; and the live streaming of the creation of games, shedding light on the games industry and subverting ordinarily expensive or highly competitive game-design courses, training and employment paths. To do so, we draw on empirical data from offline and online fieldwork, including 100 qualitative interviews with professional live-streamers, offline ethnography at live-streaming events, and online ethnography and observation of Twitch streams. The article concludes that live streaming is a major new force in the games industry, creating new links between developers and influencers and shifting our expectations of game play and game design, and is consequently a platform whose major structural effects are only now beginning to be understood.

digital economy, games industry, game studies, labour, live streaming, reviewing, video games.

(Corresponding Author: Mark R Johnson, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta, 10-28 Henry Marshall Tory Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada. Email:


Johnson, Mark R. / Woodcock, Jamie
The impacts of live streaming and on the video game industry.
In: Media, Culture & Society [Online first] (20.12.2018);