Twitch Introduces 'Overwatch,' 'Hearthstone' Hero Directories

Everyone likes to play favorites. That's especially true in hero-based games like Overwatch and Hearthstone, where someone interested in watching a streamer play Tracer or Rexxar might fall asleep watching a Reinhardt or Thrall. Now it will be easier to find a stream you actually want to watch, thanks to Twitch's new directories, which automatically organize streamers based on what hero they're playing at that moment.

Twitch said the Overwatch and Hearthstone directories are based on computer vision and machine learning technologies. Aside from allowing the company to mark off "uses machine learning" in the "be a modern tech company" checklist, these capabilities mean that streamers won't have to manually say what hero they're playing. Instead, Twitch will "analyze and categorize the video in just-about-real-time," no input required.

This feature might seem inconsequential to anyone who doesn't play or watch these games. But if you're familiar with Overwatch and Hearthstone, you're probably at least a little excited about it being easier to find a stream relevant to your interests. Those streams make it easier to learn new things about your favored hero, watch someone likely to make a flashy play, or avoid heroes that are likely to bore you.

Features like this also showcase the budding romance between Twitch and Blizzard. The companies recently partnered up to make Twitch the official broadcaster of Blizzard-held tournaments like the Overwatch World Cup or Hearthstone Championship Tour, for example, and to offer Twitch Prime members exclusive in-game items. (So far those have been restricted to loot boxes, but they could offer other perks in the future.)

This is a symbiotic relationship. Letting people find exactly what they want to watch is likely to keep them coming back to Twitch instead of, say, YouTube. It could also lead them to watching an Overwatch stream instead of tuning in to a different game. This is the attention economy, after all, and convenience is key to convincing someone to watch a Hearthstone stream instead of the newest "Game of Thrones" episode.

The new directories are available now. Overwatch's lets you find videos based on language and hero. Hearthstone's is a little more involved: In addition to choosing a specific hero, you can also find streams based on rank, expansion, and game mode. It would be nice to see those options expand to Overwatch (we'd prefer not to see a quick play stream on Horizon Lunar Colony) but we suspect that's not going to happen for a while.

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