- Verizon this week became the official 5G and 4G LTE network partner of a video game tournament series for streamers on Twitch, the live video service owned by Amazon, per an announcement. The telecom giant will collaborate on Twitch Rivals North America as it pits streamers against each other every week in games like "Fortnite," "Apex Legends," "League of Legends" and "PlayerUnknown's Battleground."
- As part of the sponsorship deal, Verizon and Twitch will work together on applications for 5G wireless technology that appeal to the gaming community, including broadcast and media integrations in Twitch Rivals streams and activations at Twitch events. The possibilities include augmented online and in-person experiences. Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband service is available in parts of 36 cities.
- The next Twitch Rivals tournament will be on Aug. 28 for players of "Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout," the battle royale game from Mediatonic and Devolver Digital. Twitch is inviting 80 streamers to participate in 20 teams of four people each for a grand prize of $50,000 and several other prizes, per Twitch's website.
Verizon's sponsorship of the Twitch Rivals tournament aims to showcase the capabilities of its 5G wireless network with an eye toward developing applications that will appeal to Twitch's community of people who watch others play video games in livestreams.
Twitch's current gaming livestream format shows a picture-in-picture view of a streamer playing a video game that fills up most of the remaining screen. A chat box along the side of the screen lets viewers post live comments with text and emojis. 5G technology may help to expand the variety of content that Twitch viewers see on their mobile devices.
That expanded content could include augmented reality activations or other experiences that supplement or replace live events amid pandemic disruptions. Twitch in March canceled TwitchCon San Diego, a major event that last year had 28,000 attendees, including fans who gathered to meet their favorite streamers, win prizes, see Twitch Rivals tournaments, buy gaming-related merchandise, attend seminars and socialize with others. It's too early to tell how Verizon's 5G technology will be integrated with Twitch, but the collaboration may lead to innovations that engage users with more immersive experiences through their smartphones.
The sponsorship of Twitch Rivals follows Verizon's expanded efforts to connect with the growing audience for video games, which this year includes 214 million U.S. consumers, as measured by the Entertainment Software Association. Verizon's push into gaming-related sponsorships include this month's partnership with video game companies Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics to become the official telecommunications partner for "Marvel’s Avengers," which will be released on Sept. 4.
Twitch's audience will grow by 14% to 37.5 million people in the U.S. this year, researcher eMarketer forecast in February, though the coronavirus pandemic increased viewership among people who were stuck at home during lockdowns. The average number of concurrent Twitch viewers more than doubled to 2.49 million from December to March, per TwitchTracker, and viewership has remained elevated in the ensuing months.
Verizon is also ramping up its sponsorships of esports teams and events that have grown in popularity, though the pandemic has led to the cancellation of live gatherings at stadiums and arenas. Instead, esports matches are livestreamed so that viewers can watch the action from home on platforms like Twitch or YouTube Gaming.
Verizon last month announced it had become the exclusive 5G partner of esports team FaZe Clan. In June, the telecom company signed a three-year contract to serve as the official 5G and network services provider of the Legends Championship Series, the North American professional gaming division of Riot Games' leading title "League of Legends."