The currency is being introduced through a new game, Breakaway, developed by Twitch owners, Amazon, through its subsidiary Amazon Game Studios.
Breakaway includes the option to make bets using the new virtual currency, Stream+.
During a brief video demonstration of Breakaway, Amazon Game Studios showed that players could wager on matches and earn Steam+ coins by watching.
Adam Wong, managing editor for Double Helix, part of Amazon Game Studios, explained:
“We wanted to create more ways for viewers, broadcasters and players to interact with each other on Twitch, so various teams within Amazon Game Studios are building new features that enhance the experience between players, broadcasters and viewers.”
Patrick Gilmore of Amazon Game Studios gave only slightly more information on Stream+:
“Stream+ is a loyalty points system where players can earn points by watching streams.”
He added that Stream+ points could be spent on wagering, but exactly how the system will work, and whether the Stream+ points or coins would be tradable across or outside of the Twitch platform was left unaddressed.
The issue is important from a regulatory point of view. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has made its position clear.
If a virtual currency or in-game article (a skin) can be monetised, then it is the equivalent of money. If used for an activity that qualifies as gambling, then the provider needs a gambling licence.
“Where ‘skins’ are traded or are tradeable and can therefore act as a de facto virtual currency and facilities for gambling with those items are being offered, we consider that a licence is required.”
The last few months have seen Valve attempt to stop its Steam platform being used for skin betting. Almost all the betting has revolved around CS:GO skins, which could be traded and monetized on third party sites.
Valve’s approach to the regulatory and reputational risks that arose will have been taken on-board by Twitch.
The likelihood is that Twitch will make certain that any gambling using Stream+ will fit strictly within the confines of the legal definitions of social gaming.
This will not prevent Twitch or game producers from receiving revenues from the sale of Stream+ coins, but will mean that Twitch is likely to set ground rules preventing the coins from subsequently being monetized.
While the new currency may not see esports betting operators benefit directly, it may introduce more players and fans to the fun of betting on their favorite players and games.
This greater awareness that betting is possible reduces the gap which esports betting operators have to bridge in attracting customers.