PokerStars announced last month that it would be integrating new Twitch features into its client. It has since confirmed that its US sites will be included. In fact, it plans to roll the new features out globally, although not simultaneously across all sites.
Twitch is a popular video game live streaming service. Users can both stream their own sessions and watch those of their friends or gaming celebrities.
The platform has become an important marketing tool for poker sites, through which professional and aspiring professional players stream with cards up on a short delay.
There’s no fixed timeline for the rollout.
PokerStars representative Rebecca McAdam indicated that the launch date will vary by site and be determined in the course of testing. In-client Twitch integration should, however, be available globally before the end of next year, and in the first half of 2020 for US players.
This will include players in Pennsylvania, where PokerStars is expected to launch on Monday, as well as in New Jersey. Play-money players in other states will also be able to make use of the features on the dot-net client but will receive somewhat different incentives where cash rewards are prohibited by law.
It was already possible for players to link their Twitch accounts to PokerStars from the other end. Subscribers to the PokerStars Twitch channel who pay $4.99 monthly for the privilege can do so through an extension.
Being able to link to a Twitch account from within the poker client is an industry first, however. It’s an important addition, too, because it captures an additional segment of Twitch users — namely the streamers themselves.
People use Twitch for different reasons. Some want to watch others play; others want to be watched. Some want to do both. Not everyone who streams their own games while playing on PokerStars is a subscriber to the site’s Twitch channel. These players now have the chance to link their accounts, which they did not have previously.
Likewise, the benefits of Twitch to PokerStars are twofold.
The PokerStars Twitch channel is useful for engaging players. However, players streaming their own games are perhaps even more important. They are effectively providing free advertising for the site in doing so.
Details are still sparse on what the benefits of account-linking will be for players. According to McAdam, “When players link their accounts, they’ll have access to our special streaming community promotions, items and rewards on offer.” She didn’t elaborate, but there we can glean a few clues from her choice of words.
Subscribers to the PokerStars Twitch channel who link their accounts that way already receive a monthly reward in the form of a chest, similar to those dispensed through the Stars Rewards program. That’s a perk intended to offset the cost of paying for the subscription, however, and won’t likely be extended to players who link from the client but don’t subscribe to the channel.
McAdams discussing the “streaming community” rather than “Twitch-viewing community” is interesting. It might suggest that the focus of the new promotions and rewards will be on getting players to broadcast their sessions.
Run It Once, the new poker site opened this year by pro player Phil Galfond, does something along these lines. It offers players additional rakeback if they stream their sessions, based on the duration of their stream and its viewership.
PokerStars is generally averse to offering direct rakeback, so it’s unlikely we’ll see the RIO model copied. However, we could see players earn reward chests by streaming their sessions — or something along those lines.
By “items,” McAdam is likely referring to digital cosmetic upgrades such as special avatars or badges. There’s no direct precedent for that at PokerStars, save for the red spades displayed to indicate paid PokerStars Team Pro ambassadors.
However, PokerStars has recently been making numerous attempts at integrating video game like features into its product. The Stars Rewards chests are one such feature, and the experimental game Power Up is another.
Adding more visual customization and putting exclusive items up for grabs would be in keeping with this strategy.
Finally, we can also expect that at least a few of the coveted Platinum Passes will be given away through promotions related to the new account-linking feature. These passes, worth about $30,000 apiece, grant travel and entry to the 2020 PokerStars Players Championship taking place next August in Barcelona.
PokerStars has already announced that some will be given away through its Twitch channel. Players must subscribe to the channel and watch streams to find out when and how they’ll have that chance.
It stands to reason that it will also want to give one or more passes away to players streaming their own sessions on the site.
Best of all from a marketing perspective would be if they find a way to award the pass while the player is in the process of streaming. That goes double if the player in question has a large number of viewers.
We’ll have to wait until the rollout to know for sure what will be on offer. McAdams promised it would be before mid-year for US players, but chances are it will be even earlier.
The New Jersey Spring Championship of Online Poker (NJSCOOP) takes place in May. And we can probably assume a similar series will take place in Pennsylvania at the same time.
PokerStars will surely want to have as many players streaming those as possible, so they’ll no doubt try to have players linking their accounts by the end of April.