When it was announced that TwitchCon 2023 was being held in Las Vegas, it felt like an odd choice.
Since the convention’s start in 2015, this celebration of Amazon’s live-streaming platform has normally been held in California and Europe. It also didn’t help that over the past few years, Twitch has had a plethora of controversies centered around problematic gambling. But after spending a weekend in the air-conditioned halls of the downtown Las Vegas Convention Center surrounded by glimmering casinos, I can see that this heavily commercialized town was actually a fitting choice.
See, TwitchCon is a mixture of fan conventions like Comic-Con and a more traditional trade show like New York’s Advertising Week or Toy Fair. Its main objective is to get streamers to leave their curtained, LED-covered dwellings to learn about the latest advancements in streamer tech, meet up with fans, and watch panels on how to grow (and sell) more as a creator.
Walking around the floor, there were booths dedicated to mechanical keyboards, AI streaming tools, and even software that allows you to create (and then stream) your own virtual avatar with ease. But streamers don’t pay the bills, advertisers do. So of course, there were a plethora of non-traditional brands vying for gamer eyes like Doritos, the Navy, Chevron, and Crocs.
At the Opening Ceremony on Friday morning, Twitch also showed off a plethora of new updates that streamers have been clamoring for. Clips are easier to edit. Doxxing and swatting off-platform is now a punishable offense. Twitch chat moderators will soon be able to send messages to viewers as warnings instead of banning them outright. And most exciting of all, streamers can now simulcast on any platform.
But even with a streamer-focused floor and program, fans still showed up in force, running around the multi-block convention center or just cosplaying as their favorite “League of Legends” champion. They stood for hours in a chaotic swirl in a meet-and-greet line on the show floor for a chance to see their favorite creators.
To get away from the gargantuan floor, you could visit a panel or escape to the Twitch Rivals arena mostly dedicated to esports — where I spent a good chunk of my time just marveling at how proficient a gamer can be. The MC Championship, which brought out over 40 of the best “Minecraft” players, had the loudest female audience I’ve ever heard at any gaming event.
For a convention full of socially isolated attention hounds, there was only one controversy that came outside of the convention center’s walls. Edgelord extraordinaire Adin Ross, who is still banned on Twitch, streamed himself on Kick trying to get into the con. He didn’t even make it through the lobby.
Despite the chaos surrounding huge streamers like Ross, for most fans and streamers, TwitchCon did what it needed to do. Micro-influencer streaming culture came out in full force, with smaller communities of a couple hundred dedicated to a personality or niche becoming a main attraction for Twitch.
If you aren’t any of these people or know any of them, then it’s kind of a hard convention to really enwrap yourself in. It’s hard to know where you belong underneath all the flashing lights, surrounded by flashy brands trying to sell you things and the chaotic Las Vegas strip. So for me personally, spending a weekend in the desert left me with a rather lukewarm experience.
What was your TwitchCon 2023 experience? Email [email protected] to share your story.