Yesterday, Twitch introduced “cheering” functionality to its Overwatch League streams, allowing viewers to express team loyalty with actual money. Oddly, however, none of that money is going directly to teams.
In order to use Twitch’s cheering functionality, you have to acquire “bits,” which you can buy in bundles that come out to around a $0.014 per bit exchange rate, sans discounts. Since the feature’s introduction yesterday, a counter on Twitch’s OWL page says that viewers have (virtually) whooped, hollered, and idly considered streaking across the field to the tune of over 11,000,000 bits, or more than $150,000.
Why? In part, at least, because there’s a leaderboard and rewards involved. Viewers can unlock Overwatch-themed Twitch emotes for cheering, and once they reach certain cheer milestones, they’ll unlock new items for everyone in Overwatch, like a special Tracer skin at 40,000,000 bits.
As of writing, Dallas had been cheered the most, with 2,123,370 bits. Also, the top cheerer had spent 122,250 bits, which converts to anywhere from $1,540 to $1,711 depending on which bit bundles they bought.
As Unikrn points out, however, cheering doesn’t directly contribute to teams’ earnings, despite drawing on the tribalistic forces of team-based loyalty. “Overwatch League Cheering is part of a larger partnership between Twitch and Overwatch League that supports the League and players as a whole,” states Twitch’s FAQ. “Your Cheering helps support this partnership, rather than the teams individually.”
Like I said yesterday, Twitch’s costly $90 million deal with Blizzard probably has something to do with this.