My Thoughts on Twitch Extensions (so far)

By 14 September, 2017 No Comments
Twitch Extensions

Twitch recently introduced something very interesting with Twitch Extensions. It was the ability to add selective on-screen overlays. It had already been live for a few selected streamers and developed by a few selected developers.

What’s a Twitch Extension?

extensionsguide-extensionlayersTwitch Extensions are either overlays or panels for your Twitch channel. The overlay version is what goes above your video.

For the overlay Twitch Extension think of your live video as three panes of glass. The first glass has the video, second glass has the Twitch Extension and the third glass has the user interface (play button, timeline, etc.). This way, similar to the user interface, the extension isn’t a fixed fixture but can rather be hidden once you’re not active on that screen anymore. You’re allowed to have 1 overlay extension.

The panel Twitch Extension lives in your Twitch panels. They fill the same function as your regular panels and are there to give information to your viewers. However these are dynamic and can pull in information either from the Twitch API or other API’s to display information without you having to update the text yourself. You’re allowed to have 2 of these Twitch extensions.

“Cool! Now we can all go out and get these done right away” Wait a minute there! All of the extensions are hosted on Twitch and that also means that they have to be approved by Twitch first. This if of course as to not be malicious or have hidden code. This also means that you can’t really press go and then it’s updated since every update (not API call) as to go through that same process again.

Can I replace my in-game overlay?

“Awesome! Now I can replace my in-game overlay!” Wait, wait, wait… no you can’t. Well you can but it would be optimal. The reason? Restrictions! And don’t get me wrong I actually have nothing against these restrictions and they will only lead to some innovative ideas instead of Twitch Extensions just treading water.

extensionsguide-videoplayerelementsDo you see the image here? That’s from the Twitch pages about Twitch Extensions. It shows you where not to place your overlay Twitch Extensions (when you’re developing) and yes that’s all of that purple area. If you’ve ever wondered why the extension is sort of oddly placed floating… that’s why. While they can go there it is stated that it should be avoided since it can interfere with controls.

Also keep in mind that mobile users can’t see the Twitch Extension.

Still, Twitch Extensions are a great piece of technology that will only get more innovative as we move forward.

What’s good and what’s bad?

Good thing is that we can now pull in information into our panels and in-game overlay without contact need of updates. For instance streamers have tendency to have biggest tipper, latest subscribers, highest cheer or latest schedule in their panels and then have to manually update them. With Twitch Extensions all of this information can now be pulled in from other sources without having to manually update.

We can also get information on the fly about games and other useful information. This will only lead to game developers and brands having their own Twitch Extension… and trust me they will. How do I know? I read the Twitch Extensions documentation and it’s pretty clear that Twitch wants game developers to use this platform (and other Twitch platforms to create interaction). Here’s from that first page documentation “Easily showcase your products and brand directly on stream to huge audiences” and “Give your customers more of what they want by adding value to your  existing products”.

The bad? No one knows what they’re doing. Looking at the current line up of Twitch Extensions it’s a really sad place. These extensions are more so a way to not have a busy chat. Pulling all of what used to be handled by bots into the Twitch Extensions. While it is great… there’s nothing new about it. There’s nothing that really highlights the potential of what it could be.

Almost any extension right now is either taking something that’s already been done or an already existing product and adapting it to a Twitch Extension. Great development but very little creative direction. However it is not surprising since finding and understanding the creative direction is the hardest part compared to the execution.

The Danger! Don’t worry too much but I do want to give a warning. Remember that I mentioned that you’re only allowed to have 1 overlay extension? Well there’s already those Twitch Extensions (and it’s a smart move by them) are sort of locking you and your viewers into that one. If one of your extensions has a points system you and your users are sort of locked to that.

What if you find another Twitch Extension that will work better or your stream or you develop something specifically for your stream. Sure you can change the overlay Twitch Extension, easy, done, but then what? How are people going to use those points? You would have to be able to transfer those points somewhere else (how I don’t know) or have it re-developed for your own Twitch Extension (how much that would cost I don’t know).

The same can be said for any Twitch Extension, add-on or bot that has some sort of loyalty system that you don’t have full control over. You’re not only locking yourself into it and you’re locking your viewers into it.

What’s the future?

All the building pieces are there for this to be great. Is it there yet? No. Will it? Hopefully. That can mean a lot for you and your channel as well. The dream scenario is always that the more you can make it useful for your stream the better.

For panels that means having information that can easily be updated and usable for your viewers. The more eyes you have there the more you can convert over to other places where you want them to go. So a game? Cool idea but in my opinion a waste of a Twitch Extensions.

For overlay Twitch Extensions it’s a whole different world. Since there can only be one overlay there’s going to be a lot of competition among the larger developers. That’s on one hand great, since that will lead to innovation. On the other hand it means that there’s less chance for single extensions to get any traction. But that’s not to say that one specific tool can make a big splash… but for how long before the larger developers develops the same function?

For now I don’t really see a lot of larger streamers jumping on things like Streamlabs or Muxy. I assume it because they understand the ramifications of it or that they want to have their own version of it.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about Twitch Extensions as time progresses. I’m sure I’ll have to revisit this subject in the near future as the Twitch Extensions get more evolved and their usage more widespread.

I hope you liked this little article. They’re just some quick thoughts I had about the subject that I wanted to put out there. 

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