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Twitch abandoning Korea feels like a huge mistake Dot Esports

Yesterday, Dec. 5, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy announced the company would cease operations in Korea due to the ‘prohibitvely expensive’ costs. This, coming from Amazon-owned Twitch feels like a huge mistake, but a big opportunity for other streaming sites.

When I went to Worlds in Seoul a few weeks ago, I was amazed at how deeply ingrained into daily life League of Legends was. I’d heard that Koreans loved esports, LoL and Starcraft in particular, but didn’t believe it until I saw T1 get a bigger round of cheers than K-Pop rising stars NewJeans. People played games on their phones on the subway, in PC rooms that were open 24/7, and while hanging out in cafes.

The T1 League of Legends squad standing in a line on stage at the World Championship finals in Seoul.
No more watching your Korean faves on Twitch. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff via Riot Games

Despite the huge market of gamers, Twitch apparently couldn’t afford to keep running there. Network fees were 10 times as expensive as other countries, Clancy said in Twitch’s statement. Twitch is owned by Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people on the planet. The decision to abandon an entire country of passionate gamers is astonishing to me.

This isn’t just going to hurt people who like watching streamers, but it’s going to directly hit the wallets of those streamers. The top five Twitch partners in Korea had over 10 million hours of views in the last 30 days, and now they’ll all need to move to another platform to keep earning a living. Clancy states Twitch will help people find new platforms to migrate to, but services will end on Feb. 27, meaning these people only have a couple of months to save their livelihoods.

What’s also unbelievable to me is the fact Twitch isn’t willing to just accept Korea as a loss leader. With so many esports pros and gamers there, it’s a country ripe for a competing streaming service to take off. And if one can survive in Korea, where network costs are apparently so high, why couldn’t that same company compete with Twitch in the U.S. and around the world? People from everywhere watch Korean esports teams, and if they leave Twitch too, this could snowball into a bigger problem than the high costs incurred by operating in the region.

I’m not a billionaire CEO, so what do I know? I just think it’s sad that a company can uproot the livelihoods of every streamer in an entire country with only two month’s notice. Maybe this will bite Twitch in the arse in the future if a competitor gains traction. Maybe other creators will move to other platforms that don’t abandon whole countries. Who knows? I doubt the billionaire CEO.

Issy van der Velde

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