Ultima Online has a streamer problem
(Bail out of this thread now if you don’t want to read an essay.)
Let’s talk about a problem that OSI UO has in context to the greater gaming landscape. OSI UO needs streamers.
To preface this, I’m late to the video game streaming party. I’m from the generation where nothing is more aggravating than watching your cousin hog the NES controller as he gets Mario killed over and over. Watching others play a video game was a very foreign concept to me for the longest time, but over the past year I’ve begun to grasp how integral to modern gaming it has become. I want to discuss why it’s so integral and why there is a tremendous issue with UO OSI streaming on Twitch.
In short: there are not nearly enough OSI streamers, these streamers are not supported by the game’s marketing strategy (such as it is), and what streamers there are are completely choked out by bootleg shard competition.
First, let’s take a quick survey of what OSI streamers are currently at work on Twitch. I know there may be other platforms but I’m only going to focus on Twitch here because of the ways in which the platform’s affordances help illuminate the issue. Twitch is a problematic platform for many reasons, but one can’t deny the place it occupies in modern gaming. Also, this is not an indictment of the few UO OSI streamer’s efforts. They are small islands within a sea of content and do their best.
On Atlantic we have Waffles_McGreggor who does stream semi-regularly, articulates specific goals for the stream, and uses the EC. They’re probably the largest remaining Atlantic streamer. There were others who have left for bootleg shards, ones who stream Atlantic so inconsistently so as to not bother mentioning, and ones who unfortunately have stepped away from the activity.
KittieKitsuneko mostly streams EM events. Unfortunately, while their content is tagged under the Ultima Online category they limit viewing their past streams to only people who pay to subscribe.
Southern_dreams is a small channel without a lot of followers, but also seems to mostly stream EM events as a record of the proceedings. This is a needed function and I’m glad they do it, but there’s not any “putting on a show” with them.
For a hot minute, EpicLuteGaming was probably the OSI streamer making the most hay on the platform with a very active community, 100+ viewers on streams, and regular content. Things seemed to be going great here but it looks like a hiatus and some life changes have forced them away from UO streaming and streaming video games in general.
These are just some of the few I’ve found by scrolling back through the Twitch Ultima Online category. Which brings me to the first major issue OSI UO streaming has. There is no category distinction between OSI shards and bootleg shards. This is a monumental issue as “Ultima Online” searches either on the platform or in Google will bring up bootleg shards first. I’m not trying to knock these other shards, but, for the health of our game it would be better if there was a clear distinction between OSI and other shards on the platform, beyond what the creators put into their video titles and metadata. On more than one occasion I’ve watched people come into EpicLute’s stream and ask “which shard is this?” or some flavor of “Is this BOOTLEG shard?” just to need to be corrected. Now, is this a Broadsword issue or a Twitch issue? Who determines how these categories are joined? Could this issue be resolved with someone from Broadsword speaking to the Twitch gaming representatives and asking for a fix? It’s hard to find these few OSI streamers as their content is consistently drowned out.
A second major issue is there is no public engagement from our team with what streamers are out there. I think this sort of “hands-off, no favoritism” policy works in an internet 1.0 era, but we’re well into the age of community engagement with creators. OSI streamers should be encouraged and supported, even if in minor ways. Our team should be comfortable with the potential benefits and, of course, likely warts to arise from throwing a little light on the community. This could be accomplished with a streamer spotlight on the homepage and/or launcher. They could intentionally reach out to creators before the TC publishes hit and invite them to preview the content on the day so creators have some notice to prepare. There are many, many ways a more “community managed” mindset could benefit the game via the involvement of streamers.
So what do we lose by not doing these things? What is so wrong with the status quo? Not amplifying the ways that modern gamers discover games is a choice that our team has made and can continue to make. Don’t mistake me, I believe that this choice is probably intentional and not made in haste. They likely have very valid reasons. I’m simply arguing that as gaming has changed so should the ways our game finds an audience. I do not believe that new gamers can not come to UO. I do not believe that the only people who can find and stay in our game are returning vets. We can find both these kinds of people, though, by going to where the audience is. The audience is out there, right now, on these gaming platforms.