Twitch to start offering a virtual currency

Video game streaming site Twitch is to introduce its own virtual "currency", says its owner Amazon Game Studios.

"Stream+ is a loyalty points system where players can earn points by watching streams," said Patrick Gilmore of Amazon Game Studios.

He said points could be used in "polls and wagering" and could be spent on items to use in games.

The studio's forthcoming multiplayer game Breakaway will be the first title to use Stream+.

Breakaway is Amazon's answer to rival studios Blizzard, Value and Riot, which have all developed similar team-based battle games.

"Over recent years Amazon has invested significantly into its first-party games development capability but has yet to make a commercial impact on the market," said Piers Harding-Rolls of the IHS Markit consultancy.

"Amazon's acquisition of Twitch back in 2014 laid the foundation for the development of its own games that were built from the ground up to engage Twitch viewers.

"Breakaway does look to be an interesting addition to the competitive play arena with it mixing some sports elements with more traditional action elements. We've seen with Rocket League that it's possible to make a break out hit in the esports scene against the incumbent titles."

Mr Gilmore said Stream+ points could be accrued by watching other gamers' video streams on the Twitch website.

A demonstration video showed a player betting on the outcome of a Breakaway tournament for the chance to win more points.

However, Amazon and Twitch have not revealed exactly how the virtual currency will work.

Video games and esports are under close scrutiny from gambling regulators, after unofficial and unlicensed betting websites were developed around popular titles such as Fifa and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

The UK's Gambling Commission has said it is "paying close attention to the growing popularity of virtual or 'in-game' items, which can be traded, sold or used as virtual currencies to gamble".

The ability for players to buy virtual currency using real money, and the facility to turn virtual coins back into something with "real world" value are thought to be an important distinction.

Online retail giant Amazon bought Twitch in 2014, in a deal worth $970m (£747m).