Emmett Shear had no idea whether his idea to focus his video site around gaming would actually work when he persuaded his cofounders to try it in 2011. Then he saw the response.
“Our first bar to pass was 25 percent growth a month for the first three months,” Shear said, “and we crushed that.”
Shear, who grew up in Seattle, is the CEO of Twitch.tv, the blockbuster live streaming site for gamers that’s rumored to be in the running for a $1 billion YouTube acquisition (and was the subject of my latest Sunday column).
What you might already know about Twitch says a lot about what you might already know about gaming, an industry so self-reliant that the significance of its innovations and transformations often escape the mainstream.
Not to mention where many of those innovations start — right here in Seattle.
“Seattle just has some of the most innovative gaming companies in the world,” said Shear, who’s based — along with Twitch — in San Francisco. “I fly to Seattle a lot. All the time.”
Companies like Microsoft and Valve Software — which runs the global Steam game distribution platform — are a big reason why, along with casual gaming shops like PopCap Games and BigFish Games, and a handful of huge gaming events, including PAX Prime, which sold out in a few hours last week, and The International, a Valve-run gaming tournament coming this July that’s built up a record-breaking $8 million prize pool.
Where Seattle seems to excel, Shear thinks, is in developing a new and improved audience-centered, social layer on gaming.
“What games offer that movies and books don’t is that you can join in as part of a community,” he said.
If you’re one of America’s 34 million core gamers (or are related to someone who is), all this is beyond obvious. If you’re not, it could be completely off your radar.
There’s a big divide there. Shear thinks it has a lot to do with age — under 35 and gaming is mainstream, over 35 and it just isn’t. I brought up the topic with some of you on Facebook last week, and while age has to play a part, I’ll bet there’s more to it.
Previously, in gaming:
- Watch me win: At blockbuster Twitch, gaming is a spectator sport
- Media madness: How fantasy football is changing fandom
- With award-winning ‘Cart Life,’ Seattle game developer tells hard truths with heart