TIME Video Games

Video Games Come of Age as Spectator Sport

TEC-Twitch-Video Games As Spectator Sport
This frame grab taken from Twitch.tv shows two gamers competing and a streaming chat, at right, as visitors to the online network watch the two gamers go head to head Twitch.tv—AP

Fans watch for the same reasons ancient Romans flocked to the Colosseum: to witness extraordinary displays of agility and skill

(NEW YORK) — Video games have been a spectator sport since teenagers crowded around arcade machines to watch friends play “Pac-Man.” And for decades, kids have gathered in living rooms to marvel at how others master games like “Street Fighter II” and “Super Mario Bros.”

But today there’s Twitch, the online network that attracts millions of visitors, most of whom watch live and recorded footage of other people playing video games —in much the same way that football fans tune in to ESPN.

Twitch’s 55 million monthly users viewed over 15 billion minutes of content on the service in July, making Twitch.tv one of the world’s biggest sources of Internet traffic. According to network services company Sandvine, Twitch generates more traffic in the U.S. than HBO Go, the streaming service that’s home to popular shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Girls.”

Fans watch for the same reasons ancient Romans flocked to the Colosseum: to witness extraordinary displays of agility and skill.

Jacob Malinowski, a 16-year-old Twitch fan who lives outside of Milwaukee, admits that some may question the entertainment value of Twitch’s content.

“(But) I think it’s interesting because you get to watch someone who’s probably better at the game than you are,” he says. “You can see what they do and copy what they do and get better.”

Amazon’s commitment to purchase Twitch for nearly $1 billion this week is an acknowledgement that the service’s loyal fan base and revenue streams from ads and channel subscriptions present enormous opportunity.

Most Twitch viewers are gamers themselves who not only see the live and recorded video sessions as a way to sharpen their abilities, but also as a way to interact with star players in chatrooms or simply be entertained.

Sorah Devlin, a 31-year-old mother of two from Geneva, New York, says she watches Twitch with her 7-year-old son and 4 year-old daughter and enjoys it more than children’s television programming. Their game of choice is “Minecraft,” which lets players build —or break— things out of cubes and explore a blocky 3-D world around them. Devlin and her kids watch popular “Minecraft” players who go by names such as iBallisticSquid and SuperChache show their skills. The players, she says, have a sense of humor and are good at keeping the content “at most PG” so she is comfortable watching them with the kids.

“He likes being able to ask questions and it made him open up more,” she says of her son. As for Amazon’s purchase, Devlin says she was “kind of surprised, but I think they are starting to realize that gamers are much more of an enterprise than they thought.”

Indeed, Twitch fans are the stuff of advertisers’ dreams. They are mostly male and between the ages of 18 and 49, an important demographic for advertisers. Twitch’s so-called user engagement is high. Nearly half of visitors spend 20 or more hours a week watching Twitch video, according to the company.

“You’ve got a hyper-growth platform with a niche audience,” says Nathaniel Perez, global head of social media at advertising firm SapientNitro. “It’s basically the best you can get, from an advertisers’ perspective.”

As a result, Twitch commands premium prices from advertisers. The company’s cost per thousand views, or the amount an advertiser pays to run one video ad 1,000 times, is $16.84 in the U.S., according to video ad-buying software company TubeMogul. That’s well above the average $9.11 per thousand advertisers typically pay for video ads placed on other sites.

“Their users are relevant to so many advertisers,” says Alex Debelov, CEO and co-founder of Virool, a video advertising platform company.

Twitch can be lucrative for talented gamers too. The site allows some gamers who set up channels —what the company calls “broadcasters”— to charge $5 monthly subscription fees to viewers. Plus Twitch gives a portion of all ad revenue to broadcasters.

Twitch didn’t start out as a video game-focused company. The company, based in San Francisco, spun out of Justin.tv, a quirky service that revolved around a video feed tracking the daily activities of co-founder Justin Kan. The focus shifted to live video for gamers in 2011.

Brett Butz, 26, who works as a compliance officer outside of Boston, says he’s spent $20 to $25 to watch content on Twitch, which is “more than I ever paid for YouTube,” which also broadcasts games. While YouTube is popular with gamers, Butz says he prefers Twitch as a place to view games.

Amazon is promising to let its newest acquisition operate independently. But for some gamers, the deal brands Twitch with a corporate stamp.

“I’m curious to see if, in a year, it’ll still have cache,” says Patrick Markey, psychology professor at Villanova University who focuses on video games. “It’s definitely considered a gamer platform but now that Amazon is buying it, is it becoming mainstream … is it going to lose its coolness?”

TIME Israel

Israeli Leader Declares Victory in Gaza War

(JERUSALEM) — Israel’s prime minister has declared victory in the Gaza war against Hamas, saying a cease-fire deal gave nothing to the Islamic militant group.

In a news conference broadcast on national TV, Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that “Hamas was hit hard” during the seven weeks of fighting.

He said that under the cease-fire deal, which took effect on Tuesday, Israel didn’t accept any of Hamas’ demands.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, and Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire destroyed thousands of buildings.

Netanyahu’s address appeared to be aimed at countering critics who have complained that the cease-fire failed to oust Hamas or stop its rocket attacks out of Gaza.

Hamas also has declared victory.

TIME Aviation

Sheriff’s Office: Military Jet Crashes in Virginia

(DEERFIELD, Va.) — A sheriff’s dispatcher says authorities are searching for a military jet that crashed in western Virginia.

Augusta County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Becky Coynter says witnesses reported hearing a loud noise that sounded like an explosion just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Coynter says authorities don’t know whether anyone was injured in the crash.

A news release from state police says officials located the crash site, with heavy smoke coming from the side of a mountain. The statement says state and local police are trying to reach the site. Police did not offer other details.

TIME

Third Doctor Dies From Ebola in Sierra Leone

(FREETOWN, Sierra Leone) —” A senior adviser to Sierra Leone’s president says a third doctor has died from Ebola, marking a setback in the country’s fight against the virulent disease.

Presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday that Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working in a clinic in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted the virus.

News of his death came as a Senegalese epidemiologist working in Sierra Leone was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. He had been doing surveillance work for the World Health Organization.

Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of people sick with the virus. Health workers have been the most vulnerable because of their proximity to patients. The WHO says more than 120 health workers have died in the four affected countries.

TIME Banking

IMF Chief Lagarde Under Investigation in France

IMF Director Lagarde Speaks On Aid Package For Ukraine
Christine Lagarde at IMF headquarters in Washington D.C., in April 2014. Allison Shelley—Getty Images

PARIS (AP) — Christine Lagarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, was placed under official investigation for negligence in a French corruption probe that dates back to her days as France’s finance minister.

In a statement Wednesday after a fourth round of questioning before magistrates, Lagarde said she would return to her work in Washington later in the day and said the decision was “without basis.” She is the third IMF managing director in a decade to face legal troubles.

She and her former chief of staff face questions about their role in a 400 million-euro ($531 million) payment to a businessman.

“After three years of proceedings, dozens of hours of questioning, the court found from the evidence that I committed no offense, and the only allegation is that I was not sufficiently vigilant,” she said in her statement.

Under French law, the official investigation is equivalent to preliminary charges, meaning there is reason to suspect an infraction. Investigating judges can later drop a case or issue formal charges and send it to trial.

The payment in question was made to Bernard Tapie in arbitration over a dispute with state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over the botched sale of sportswear company Adidas. Critics have said the deal was too generous, and was symptomatic of the cozy relationship between money and political power in France.

The court investigating the Tapie payment has been set up specifically for allegations of wrongdoing committed in office. Lagarde’s former chief of staff — now head of the French telecom giant Orange — and Tapie both are under formal investigation for fraud.

Lagarde became French finance minister in 2007, the first woman to hold the post in a G-7 country.

Her predecessor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quit after he was charged with attempted rape in the United States. The New York charges were later dropped. Strauss-Kahn is charged with aggravated pimping in a separate case in France.

A previous IMF chief, Rodrigo Rato, faced allegations of fraud in Spain after the bank he led as chairman collapsed. The collapse of Bankia came well after Rato’s tenure in the Washington-based IMF ended in 2007.

TIME States

Doug Ducey Wins GOP Primary for Arizona Governor

Doug Ducey, Sam Ducey, Joe Ducey
State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey, right, hugs his son Sam Ducey, with other son Joe Ducey, left, joining them as they all smile as the candidate arrives to claim victory on winning the Republican primary for Arizona governor in Phoenix on Aug. 26, 2014 Ross D. Franklin—AP

In the quest for right-leaning Republican primary voters, the six candidates quickly staked out hard-line positions on immigration

(PHOENIX) — State Treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican primary for Arizona governor Tuesday, riding to victory with a campaign that focused on his blend of government and business experience in serving as a state official and building an ice cream company into a national brand.

Ducey started Cold Stone Creamery in Arizona and built it into a well-known chain before selling the company in 2007 and getting into politics.

He has been state treasurer for the last four years, serving as the chief steward of Arizona’s finances during a period that included the collapse of the housing market in the state.

The race to replace Republican Gov. Jan Brewer began as a fairly quiet contest focused on health care and jobs before shifting abruptly when thousands of immigrant children began pouring into the country and some settled in Arizona.

In the quest for right-leaning Republican primary voters, the six candidates quickly staked out hard-line positions on immigration and repeatedly attacked the Obama administration for failing to secure the border.

TIME Boxing

Pacquiao to Help Set Up Boxing Academy in China

Manny Pacquiao
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao speaks during a news conference in Macau, on Aug. 25, 2014 Vincent Yu—AP

Manny Pacquiao hopes the institute will foster warmer relations between the Philippines and China

(MANILA, Philippines) — Manny Pacquiao is setting up a boxing institute in China and believes the country of 1.4 billion people can produce professional world champions.

Pacquiao said Wednesday that he has partnered with a Chinese company and the Chinese government to set up an institute in his name, with the aim of imparting the experience that has seen him win eight world titles.

He was speaking from Shanghai where he is promoting his Nov. 22 fight against Chris Algieri for a WBO welterweight title in Macau. He will be defending the welterweight crown he won in a rematch earlier last year with Timothy Bradley, avenging his 2012 loss.

Pacquiao, 35, said the Manny Pacquiao Boxing Education Institute will “start in Beijing, and the plan is for the whole of China.”

While China has produced accomplished fighters and Olympic champions at amateur level, there is potential to translate that to professional ranks, saying the local boxers “just need some knowledge about boxing and should be taught the basics.”

“Of course, with 1.4 billion population for the whole China, they can produce good fighters like other champions,” he said.

Pacquiao, who is also a congressman, told ABS-CBN television in Manila he intends his new venture to also foster warmer relationships between the Philippines and China, whose territorial dispute in the South China Sea has intensified in recent months.

“This will even help in strengthening our relationship … especially since in this project, the Chinese government is involved,” he said.

Pacquiao said he would visit the academy “once a month, once in three months, to supervise them.”

On top of his duties in the academy and as congressman and boxer, Pacquiao has taken on the role of playing coach of a new Philippine professional basketball team which will see action for the first time in October.

He said the team trains every day, except on weekends. “I can handle it,” he said.

The well-loved Bible-quoting boxer is regarded as a folk hero by Filipinos, and his win over Brandon Rios in Macau last November was a boost to a country recovering from Typhoon Haiyan which killed more than 6,300 in the central Philippines.

TIME Video Games

Video-Game Makers: Lohan Sued Us for Attention

Lindsay Lohan At 'Weisses Fest 2014'
Lindsay Lohan attends a press conference during 'Weisses Fest 2014' on July 26, 2014 in Linz, Austria. Monika Fellner/Getty Images

Lindsay Lohan's lawsuit says Grand Theft Auto V uses her image, voice and styles

(NEW YORK) — The makers of the “Grand Theft Auto” video games say Lindsay Lohan sued to get attention when she asserted the games’ latest installment features a character based on her.

In Manhattan court papers made public Tuesday, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and subsidiary Rockstar Games call the case frivolous and maintain it was “filed for publicity purposes.” They want it dismissed and want the “Mean Girls” star to pay their legal fees.

Lohan’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Lohan sued in July over “Grand Theft Auto V.” Her suit says the game uses her image, voice and styles and evokes her via a character named Lacey Jonas.

Take-Two says her voice, name and likeness aren’t used, and the character resembles her only in being a young, blonde woman.

TIME Syria

Journalist Held Captive in Syria Arrives in the U.S.

Peter Theo Curtis
Peter Theo Curtis, who was released from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria, talks to reporters near his mother's home in Cambridge, Mass. on Aug. 27, 2014. Brian Snyder—Reuters

Journalist Peter Theo Curtis returned home to the U.S. on Tuesday, two days after being freed by a Syrian extremist group that held him hostage for 22 months, his family said

(BOSTON) — Journalist Peter Theo Curtis returned home to the United States on Tuesday, two days after being freed by a Syrian extremist group that held him hostage for 22 months, his family said.

Curtis family spokeswoman Betsy Sullivan said in a statement that Curtis arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday afternoon after leaving Tel Aviv. By evening he had been reunited with his mother Nancy Curtis at Boston Logan International Airport.

“I have been so touched and moved, beyond all words, by the people who have come up to me today — strangers on the airplane, the flight attendants, and most of all my family — to say welcome home,” Curtis said in the statement.

He also said he was “deeply indebted” to the U.S. officials who worked to get him released.

Curtis, 45, of Boston, was released by al-Nusra Front, a Sunni extremist group.

Last week, journalist James Foley, who also was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising, was killed. The Islamic State group posted a Web video showing his beheading.

The extremists said they killed the Rochester, New Hampshire, resident in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in northern Iraq.

Curtis’ mother said she was “overwhelmed with relief” that her son had been returned to her. “But this is a sober occasion because of the events of the past week,” she said. “My heart goes out to the other families who are suffering.”

U.S. freelance journalist, Austin Tice of Houston, disappeared in Syria in August 2012. He is believed to be held by the Syrian government.

TIME stock market

Another Milestone: S&P 500 Closes Above 2,000

It was a big round-number day for the stock market.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed a hair above 2,000 points Tuesday, 16 years after it closed above 1,000 points for the first time.

The milestone added to the market’s gains from the day before and extended the stock index’s record-shattering run this year.

The S&P 500 index, a widely followed barometer of the stock market, has closed at a new high 30 times this year. By this time last year, it had done so 25 times.

The index briefly rose past 2,000 on Monday, but closed just below that level. It still set a record-high close in the process.

“There’s perhaps a small psychological boost when you get over such a significant price level,” said Cameron Hinds, regional chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

U.S. stocks, in the midst of a five-year rally, have surged in the final weeks of the summer after dipping earlier this month on concerns about geopolitical tensions in Russia and the Middle East.

The latest string of shattered market benchmarks comes as investors cheered new indications that the economy is strengthening, setting the stage for stronger company earnings.

Major U.S. indexes began in positive territory in premarket trading Tuesday. That trend held as investors began to digest the latest economic reports.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose this month to the highest point in nearly seven years. A separate report showed that orders of durable manufactured goods surged by a record 22.6 percent in July, thanks to a jump in aircraft sales. A third report showed U.S. home prices rose in June, although at a slower pace.

Stocks opened slightly higher and remained in the green the rest of the day. The S&P crossed above 2,000 points early on, and hovered at or above the mark as it approached the close of regular trading.

Moments before the close it dipped below 2,000, then inched up just above.

The S&P 500 rose 2.10 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at 2,000.02. Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index gained, led by energy stocks. Utilities declined the most.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 29.83 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,106.70. The Nasdaq composite gained 13.29 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,570.64.

The major U.S. indexes are riding a three-week streak of weekly gains and are up for the year.

The string of record highs this year isn’t unusual when a market is recovering from a downturn, said Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones.

In the past, once stocks have hit a new high after a downturn, they have continued higher for about two years, on average, she said. The first time the S&P 500 hit a new high after the financial crisis was March 2013. So this year’s record run is still within the average range.

“Markets don’t climb sharply. They tend to climb slowly, and that’s probably good news for a continued climb in the future,” Warne said.

The Dow also has put up some big numbers this year, notching 15 new closing highs. That trails the 30 it racked up by this time a year ago.

While the market is setting records, many stock watchers believe equities remain fairly valued, though not cheap.

The S&P 500 is trading around 16 times its forward-operating earnings, or over the next 12 months. The historical average on that measure is about 15 times.

“That says stocks are no longer cheap, but we also don’t think they’re expensive,” Warne said. “Historically, when the price-earnings ratio has been in that range, returns over the next year have been around 7 percent. That’s not bad.”

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.39 percent. U.S. crude for October delivery rose 51 cents to $93.86 a barrel. In metals trading, gold rose $6.30 to $1,285.20 an ounce, silver rose three cents to $19.39 an ounce and copper fell three cents to $3.19 a pound.

Among the stocks making big moves Tuesday:

— Amazon rose 2.3 percent after saying that it would buy video streaming company Twitch for $970 million. The stock climbed $7.81 to $341.83.

— Best Buy fell $2.19, or 6.8 percent, to $29.80 after the electronics retailer reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income plunged 45 percent as sales weakened.

— Orbitz fell 4.6 percent after American Airlines and US Airways disclosed they are pulling flight listings from the site because they have not been able to reach agreement on a long-term contract with the travel booking website operator. Orbitz shed 39 cents to $8.04.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,387 other followers