A new feature from Twitch, subscriber streams, will allow content creators to stream exclusively to those users who have paid a subscription to their channel. Users currently can watch any channel’s content for free, or can choose to subscribe to channels in order to access a small number of privileges.
The decision has been met with mixed reactions. Some feel that subscription-only streams will reduce toxicity and unpleasant messages in the chat. It’s also the case that stream chats can already be limited to subscribers without preventing non-subscribers from viewing a channel’s content.
Others feel that channels limiting viewership to subscribers will risk huge drops in viewership, or worry that the move could be the first in a series by Twitch to further gate content behind paid walls.
A more unexpected problem to already emerge is that subscriber-only streams appear to be against the terms of service of some games. Developers Riot Games, Blizzard, and Valve all have clauses in their terms of service prohibiting the streaming of a game in which an unpaid user cannot access the stream.
The Riot Games legal page clearly states, “We permit individual players to solicit personal donations or offer subscription-based content while live-streaming games, so long as non-subscribers can still watch the games concurrently.”
Other developers such as Nintendo, Bethesda, and CD Projekt Red also have similar clauses prohibiting the streaming of their content behind a paywall.
To add to the issue, in Twitch’s own terms of service the company states that users must abide by each game developer’s guidelines. Should someone stream CSGO in a subscriber-only channel for example, it is possible they could face punishment from both Twitch and Valve.
Twitch is no longer just a gaming platform, and subscriber streams could still be the right choice for some streamers. “IRL” and “Just chatting” streams already draw huge audiences. Gamers wishing to access the benefits of subscriber streams will, however, have to be careful to make sure they are following all relevant guidelines.