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Science & Technology

TwitchCon returns to San Diego after pandemic hiatus

In a nutshell, TwitchConis a convention where livestreamers — or streamers as they’re known on the platform — meet their community. But it’s also a tech convention and a business conference.

Approximately 90,000 people are expected for the event, happening Friday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center.

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Twitch, owned by Amazon, started out as a livestreaming platform for gamers but, over the years, has transformed into a platform for all sorts of streaming content.

"It's really open for any kind of live streaming that you want to do," said DesiRée Preston, a streamer from Escondido. "There's makers and crafting for anyone who's creative … It's a very wide platform these days."

By day, she's a customer service representative, but by night, she can be seen on her Twitch channel EnasniVeeslaying zombies.

What attracted her to Twitch over other livestreaming platforms, such as YouTube, is its simplicity. There's no algorithm to beat. You just stream your content or watch your favorite streamer.

"As complicated as the platform is behind the scenes, it's pretty simple and straightforward for fans," she said.

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That is also why it's catching on among Gen Z. When the computer science department at UC San Diego wanted to connect with its students on a social level, it decided to start a Twitch channel.

"It was hard to kind of have in-person meet-and-greet events," said Niema Moshiri, an assistant teaching professor at UC San Diego. "It was kind of hard to invite a bunch of students to go to a talk by one of the faculty members. So we wanted to think of a pandemic-friendly way that maybe is familiar to the students in terms of what media is doing or what media is using."

Moshiri said his students found Twitch to be more engaging than Zoom seminars.

"I think Twitch is just kind of more associated with more easygoing, fun, friendly conversation rather than — I think the students, as well as us, kind of associate Zoom (with) some of our more formal meetings or more formal talks or things like that," he said.

As a platform, Twitch averages about 2.5 million viewers at any one point and 31 million average daily website visits.

And that brings us to the Convention Center, where Twitch will be hosting the three-day event. TwitchCon is designed for people like Preston. It's part pop-culture, part tech convention and part business conference.

Typically, Twitch holds two conventions each year. One in North America and one in Europe. San Diego, in particular, has hosted the convention three times, including this year.

"We're thrilled they're back here in town," said Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, San Diego Convention Center president and CEO. He said it will be a boon for the local economy.

"They're going to be 30,000 people a day here over the next three days," he said. "In (2019) they actually had an economic impact of $65 million, and that was with less people. So it's going to be north of that $65 million in economic impact for the weekend."

He said part of the appeal for Twitch to continue to host the convention here is because the region is becoming more of a tech hub.

While there might be cosplayers and gamers coming to the convention this weekend, Comic-Con this is not. Preston said the atmosphere is different.

"Comic-Con is just this huge festival where I feel as if TwitchCon is more of a business conference than a fan convention,” she said.

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