I actively support some of my favorite Twitch streamers with donations of cash. More often than not, the streamers I watch such as XFactor, Matimi0, JackFrags, and Darkness429 accept monetary donations via a company called StreamLabs. What usually happens is that my transaction takes me to StreamLabs’ website, which allows me to pay for the donation with my credit card, or with PayPal. This transaction happens immediately, and within a few moments of me completing it, the streamer is alerted to it.
If I donate, say, $100US to a streamer, it isn’t clear (nor is it any of my business) how much of that StreamLabs skims off the top. And of course, if I use PayPal, they’ll get a teeny bit, too. But based on my discussions with some of the aforementioned streamers, they get most of the money. That’s a good thing.
Twitch also has a currency that they call bits. You can read about bits here. Once you have purchased bits, you can cheer in the streamer’s text chat, and everyone will see it. To show off just how much you’ve donated, Twitch has little icons that appear next to your name which denote the number of bits you’ve purchased and used. It’s a way to brag, a bit. Twitch will eventually tally up the number of bits a streamer has been cheered and send them a check. The monetary value of a bit is 1 US cent.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. One is that Twitch takes a nice chunk of the money you’ve paid, but they do it by charging you more than your donation. For instance, if we stick with our $100US donation, that would translate to 10,000 Twitch bits. But that won’t cost you $100US, it’ll cost you $126.
The second problem is a bigger issue for the end buyer, less so the streamer. That is: the bit purchases aren’t guaranteed to process immediately and show up on your Twitch account. It can take up to a few seconds. It can also take several hours. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the length of time between you pressing the “Purchase” button on Amazon, and the bits showing up in your account.
That’s right: you’re purchasing the bits through Amazon; remember they own Twitch. It should be an easy and immediate digital transaction, but it isn’t. And when it isn’t, neither company will support you. On two separate occasions, I’ve contacted either Twitch’s purchaser support email OR Amazon’s customer service. In both cases, each support redirected me to the other. Which is just ridiculous and a bad way to treat your customers.
My latest purchase for 10000 bits ($126US) is somewhere in Limbo since the afternoon of Feb 10, 2017. I can see the “pending” charge on my Amazon credit card, the purchase has completed according to Amazon, but my Twitch account doesn’t show them. I’ve asked for a refund, but neither company has responded. As soon as the charge on my card transitions from “pending” to “posted”, I’m going to call them and have the charge contested. If both companies are going to treat me that way, there’s really no point in me paying them for that privilege.
So, with that: I strongly encourage you to show support for your favorite Twitch streamer. But do it outside of Twitch bits. They’ll almost certainly have donation pages set up on their Twitch channel. Go there and show your support; leave Twitch to wallow in their useless bits.
There’s one exception this: during the last holiday season, Twitch tried to bait folks into using bits instead of streamer donation pages. They did so by promising to donate the equivalent dollar amount of each cheer to the charity Doctors Without Borders. That’s certainly kind of them; of course it’s a tax write-off for them, but it’s still a very generous offer. So if they do something like that again next Christmas, buy some bits and cheer for your streamers. Otherwise ignore them.