Following a series of statements expressing dissatisfaction with leading video game streaming platform Twitch, Tyler “Trainwrecks” Niknam introduced what he claims to be a better alternative for streamers with Kick.com.
The new live-streaming platform has garnered attention for its unique approach to revenue sharing with content creators. The platform aims to offer unique benefits for content creators, including a favorable revenue split and support for casino game streaming. However, the confirmed involvement of Stake.com, an online casino, has raised questions about the potential impact of the online gambling industry on the platform. In this article, we will explore the implications of this relationship and what it could mean for the future of Kick.com.
Niknam has confirmed that Stake.com, an online casino partnered with Niknam, is involved in the new live-streaming platform Kick.com through investment by their founder. Niknam will only serve as an adviser, but the extent of Stake.com’s involvement remains unclear. This raises questions about the potential impact of the online casino industry on the platform.
Popular video game streamer “Trainwrecks” has been hyper-critical of Twitch in recent months, citing increasing streamer pay cuts despite the platform’s claims of record viewership, sponsorship, and profitability. Niknam pointed out that Twitch takes the highest percentage split of any live-streaming platform at 50%. He also decried the following practices:
- Content creators receiving only USD$2.50 for each subscription if they’re not in a first-world country
- Charging viewers increased rates for donations
- Almost no marketing for streamers and no help in building content creators’ businesses
- Inconsistent policies
YouTube Gaming has already leveraged some of Twitch’s shortcomings to lure streamers onto the platform. Apart from the resources it has to pirate content creators like Jack “CourageJD” Dunlop and Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, YouTube Gaming offers a more generous 70-30 revenue split. Its algorithm also helps content creators with discoverability; something Twitch streamers have long been deprived of.
In contrast, Twitch relies on the number of views to sort channels. This means new creators will be at the very bottom of the directory they’re streaming under. YouTube’s exponentially higher user population, combined with its algorithm, increases the growth potential for creators. Similarly, Facebook Gaming leverages its user base for content creators to reach potential viewers. It also has built-in outreach and promotional features and is the most accessible medium to share content.
However, despite the criticisms, Twitch continues to dominate the market. Their tight-knit community has remained a solid asset in the face of challenges from tech giants Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.
In September 2022, Twitch announced a policy update prohibiting the “streaming of gambling sites that include slots, roulette, or dice games that aren’t licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that provide sufficient consumer protection.” The platform named Stake.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com, and Roobet.com as the initial prohibited sites. In recent years, streaming casino-style betting has been a boon to content creators, with droves of viewers watching wealthy streamers bet hundreds of thousands on online casino games.
Niknam came out shortly after, claiming Twitch’s updated policy “had nothing to do with gambling,” suggesting he was being targeted because of his massive gambling contract. Twitch, which Amazon owns, has historically turned a blind eye to gambling streams. In August 2022, Bloomberg published a report regarding Twitch viewers who’ve lost significant money to gambling sites due to regularly watching streamers gamble.
As a note, crypto gambling is currently illegal in the US. Streamers, including Niknam, use virtual private networks (VPNs) to sidestep the regulations. He has since moved to Canada, where online gambling laws are more relaxed.
A better platform for content creators
In a lengthy statement on Twitlonger, Niknam said Kick would have a 95-5 revenue split with content creators while also allowing them to keep 100% of donations. He added that everyone gets a sub button at Kick and the option for same-day withdrawal. Conversely, withdrawing earnings on other platforms could take five to seven days.
“I choose to work with Kick because their investors are willing to listen to creator input to make their platform better,” Niknam wrote in the statement. “Kick understands that a successful platform starts with a successful streamer. I’ve worked with their team already to create these benefits that no other platform has.” According to Niknam, content creators won’t have to rely on their subscriber count every month, instead getting a steady income based on hours watched and total viewers.
Other Kick benefits Niknam mentioned include the following:
- No ambiguous bans
- Terms of Service, including rules governing ethical gambling
- Disclosed fill balances
- No wager-locked giveaways
- No code-locked giveaways
Niknam claims that Kick will partner with leading advertisers to fulfill its 95-5 revenue split. However, he clarified that the platform is still in its building stages, asking users to be patient as developers sort out bugs and issues. The website is still in its beta stage and should come out with the full version in the coming weeks.
A host of other popular influencers on Twitch share Niknam’s critical view of the platform. They’ve pointed out the unfair preferential treatment for top creators and arbitrary enforcement of guidelines. The streamers have also leveled criticisms for Twitch’s scrapping of the 70-30 revenue split it offered top creators and its selective gambling ban.
Stake was silent when Niknam made his announcement. However, internet sleuth Coffeezilla quickly pointed out the connection between Kick and Stake co-founder Eddie Craven. As reported by Dexerto, Craven has been streaming on Kick and sharing broadcasts before it was formally promoted by Niknam, performing a test stream in mid-November 2022. Additionally, a user with the handle “Eddiee#3216” is listed as one of Kick’s official Discord channel admins.
This was later confirmed by Niknam in a message to the Washington Post, saying that Craven was an investor in Kick. He also said that the people behind the new platform liked his ideas and Twitch following, leading to them giving him an advisory role. Kick echoed this in an email, writing that Craven is involved in the company while clarifying that Stake itself is not an investor.
Dexerto also reports that a Reddit user found a since-deleted Kick job listing on Australian startup Easygo. Based on this job listing, Kick.com is a new venture established by the founders of Stake.com and Easygo, boasting new studios in Europe and Australia. Moreover, the listing stated that Kick Gaming strives to be the leading content provider in the gambling industry with its new approach to creating quality table and slot games accessible to online casinos around the world through a single API to its remote game server.
Kick concerns and optimism
As with most things new, Kick has been met with some raised brows. Ben “Cohh Carnage” Cassell, a streamer with 1.5 million Twitch followers, tweeted, “Not gonna lie, a lot of this seems so good, it’s unsustainable.”
Former Twitch director of creator development Marcus “DJWheat” Graham was more pointed with his criticisms, tweeting, “I can say confidently that kick.com is a sham.” “There are so many red flags present that it is embarrassing watching people who I respect give this platform an ounce of credibility.”
However, others have had a more optimistic view of Kick, with Cassell admitting that more competition in the streaming industry will be better. “Heard about it. Interested to see what it is,” Ludwig Ahgren, a content creator with 3 million YouTube subscribers and Twitch followers, said.
When it comes to the gambling aspect, Twitch’s inconsistent policies haven’t done much to curb its proliferation on the platform. According to creator talent agency Novo, co-founder Devin Nash, the remaining gambling categories on Twitch continue to perform as well as popular games, such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II” and “Fortnite.” He added that while he believes Twitch took a bite out of gambling, it is still causing the same problems on the platform people were concerned with before the company put the restrictions in place.
Streamer’s “ItsSliker’s” public admission of his sports betting addiction sparked a discussion within the Twitch community about the potentially harmful impacts of casino-style gambling, particularly on impressionable viewers. “ItsSliker” confessed he had borrowed money from fellow streamers only to gamble USD$200,000 and all of his Twitch revenue away.
Gambling and live streaming: A brief history
Twitch attracts an estimated 31 million visitors per day. Its top streamers have forged partnerships with gambling websites, functionally advertising them to their millions of (mostly young) followers. As mentioned earlier, casino-style betting has become a cash cow for content creators on Twitch. Essentially, streamers go to a gambling site to exchange large sums of money for cryptocurrency, which they use to bet on games like roulette and slots. This attracts viewers to experience being a high roller vicariously.
The proliferation of gambling on Twitch started gaining traction in 2018, with shady channels with inflated viewer counts advertising online slots. Eventually, influencers came into the fold, most notably with veteran slots streamer Ishmael “Roshtein” Swartz, Twitch titan Félix “xQc” Lengyel, and the gamer-turned-gambler “Trainwrecks.” Niknam has suggested he earns over USD$1 million per month, while another popular streamer, Adin Ross, reportedly rakes in around the same amount. Other notable Stake partners include rapper Drake, and former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
In August 2022, Twitch prohibited sharing links and referral codes to gambling sites, so as to prevent problems caused by suspicious gambling services that sponsor content on their live streaming platform. They also promised to continue monitoring gambling-related content and improve their approach when necessary.
Following the announcement of the policy, Swartz seemed to support the move when asked by a viewer, plainly saying, “It’s great.” He also tweeted, “Could be going in the right direction, excited about where this goes!”
Observers opined that top streamers could attract a steady stream of new players to gambling sites, which justifies the significant compensation they get. This also means content creators don’t have to rely on referral codes for revenue.
Moral grey area
Indeed, live streaming is and will continue to be an excellent medium to attract players and feed the online gambling machinery. Sports betting platforms have already become omnipresent in sports broadcasts, with major sports leagues having official betting partners. And with online casinos increasingly gaining acceptance along with favorable legislative changes in the US, gambling appears set to be even more of a cultural staple.
Listen to any sports podcast, and there’s bound to be an ad read for a sports betting platform, quickly followed by the requisite rundown of hotlines for addressing gambling addiction. It’s no different in the live-streaming realm. Niknam constantly reminds viewers about the perils of gambling, once even admitting that his losses have him “down to USD$13 million.” He also has a partnership with the mental health nonprofit Rise Above The Disorder.
But as an indelible part of human nature, gambling will always pervade society. If it is not completely legalized, people and platforms will skirt around regulations, as they always have. It wasn’t too long ago that bettors in the US had to use VPNs to use sports betting sites based in places like Ireland. Now, all they have to do is pull out their phones to place a wager.
As such, content creators will face a moral dilemma of sorts should Kick become as successful as its proprietors hope it will be. On the one hand, it will give content creators the compensation they deserve, with the potential to forever shift the revenue-split paradigm. On the other hand, they’ll be part of a mechanism that could lure younger audiences into the world of gambling. Whichever way the story goes for Kick, it must navigate tricky waters. Going up against Amazon also isn’t going to help.
The launch of Kick is an exciting development in the world of live-streaming. The platform’s unique approach to revenue sharing and support for casino game streaming offers potential benefits for content creators. It will be interesting to see how this platform grows and challenges the dominance of existing players in the industry. While the involvement of an online casino brings up potential concerns, it also opens the door for unique opportunities. It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops and how it shapes the future of Kick.com.