The Twitch Desktop App, Reviewed by Someone Who Doesn’t Care About Twitch

So Twitch’s Desktop App has joined my computer as the fifth in an increasingly difficult to manage amount of games clients on my PC. Now, I don’t really care about Twitch. Nothing personal. If you enjoy it, more power to you. I’m just not much for the whole livestreaming deal. I love let’s plays. Don’t care for livestreaming. Figure that out.

So why did I pick up the app? The games, man. Apparently Twitch sells games. Been doing that for less than a year. And, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, they started giving you a monthly bundle of games. I remember hearing some noise when Amazon made the acquisition of Twitch a while back, but I think I speak on behalf of the entire video games community when I say that giving me, specifically, new games is a good way to ingratiate yourself to everybody.

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And, you know, it’s a legit set of games. I don’t know about you, but when I found out about it, I was completely expecting it to be a bunch of garbage games. I mean, the free TV you get off Amazon Prime seems to be getting weaker every year, I was expecting the games to be the same way. But no. Sure, I already owned like half the games I’ve picked up through this arrangement on other platforms, but you can take that as an indication of the selection’s quality. Your main man has some discriminating tastes. You seem to get a bit of a mix of games, from the somewhat older mainstream releases to the creative indie title to the niche and relatively unknown left field games. Some of them are still filling gaps in the collection. I’m still kicking myself that I missed out on Mr. Shifty from not realizing I could claim games through this service the first month it was available, and although High Hell is not one I had ever thought would make its way to my collection, now that it’s there I’m having a he…..ck of a good time with it.

Of course, this is a new client on offer, joining the likes of GOG Galaxy and Uplay and Origin and the juggernaut of Steam. As far as I can tell, the Twitch Desktop App has only been around since last August, less than a year going. So, what’s it actually like?

Pretty featureless, in all. Which, granted, I’m sure it’s made more for the livestreaming than necessarily the gaming, right now. Maybe that matters to you. As I mentioned before, I don’t care. It still seems to be a work in progress. In the few weeks I’ve been playing around with it, it’s been updated three times, so I’m guessing it’s still seeing a fair bit of development. But really, it will install games on your computer and let you play them. That’s about it.

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Installation works fine. Speed seems relatively comparable to the big boy clients. You don’t have the ability to pause downloads, however. That’s not a problem for me with the small games, the indie titles, or the classics from yesteryear. It’s going to limit its utility for the modern AAA releases, though. At least for me. When I’m downloading a 60 GB game to my computer, well, I live in one of those places where you can actually see the stars at night, so on the flip side, internet speed isn’t the greatest. It takes a while. And I’m not really willing to completely dedicate my internet use to one thing over the next 14 hours. I stop large downloads when I need to do something on the internet, then start them up again when I’m occupied with something else. Wouldn’t be able to do that on Twitch.

The game’s shop is about as bare bones as you can get. The selection isn’t great. Around 200 games, which sounds like a lot, but when you start looking for that one specific game you’re craving, it’s going to seem all too small. The selection is so small there’s not any way to sort through them. They just give you a list of games in roughly alphabetical order, and leave it to you to find what you’re looking for. No organizing by genre, no search function, nada. For whatever reason, they don’t even display prices on the shop screen either. You have to click through to the game’s page to find out what they’re offering it for. Or if Twitch is even selling it at all; some games only sell add-ons through Twitch, to get the full game, you have to buy from another site.

For that matter, you can’t buy games through the client itself. You click the shop button, it just opens the window in your browser. You can’t claim your Amazon Prime goodies through the client either. All browser-based.

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One thing that I think is unique about the Twitch App is that it’s got a dedicated area for managing mods. Only for a handful of games, seemingly, and only for the selection of mods that are uploaded to Twitch, but you don’t need the games to be in your Twitch library to enjoy this benefit. Twitch pretty easily picked up a couple of games I had installed through Steam, and I can seemingly integrate mods simply enough through this service. I’m not really a big mod gamer, but I still found this rather interesting.

Playing the game… you’re just playing the game. Twitch has no overlay here. Which is fine, most services don’t, I think Steam’s a little unique in that regard. I was surprised by this, I would have expected Twitch to provide some streaming features, or at least easy screenshot functionality, but hey, for all I know they do and I just haven’t found it yet.

One last minor irritation, the client doesn’t actually close with you ‘X’ out of it. It just minimizes. Granted, Uplay’s the only client kind enough to close entirely when you ‘X’ out, Origin, Galaxy, and Steam all still run in the background, but it is bizarrely frustrating to me to see Twitch hanging out on my task bar at all times unless I take the extra step of exiting entirely. It’s a feature that makes very little difference whatsoever, but it’s still hitting me on a visceral level.

So yeah, that’s the Twitch Desktop App. As a client to get those monthly games you get through Amazon Prime onto your computer and let you play them, it’s perfectly fine. Missing some convenience features, but it’s totally functional. If it wants to stand on its own as a gaming client, it’s got some work to do. The developers do seem to be working on that, a little bit at a time. But it’s going to take some time to get there. I hope it does have the longevity to last, though. The closure of the Wii Shop has found my trust in marketplaces somewhat shaken, and I’d hate to see these new games I’ve been able to add to my collection get cut off from me.

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6 responses to “The Twitch Desktop App, Reviewed by Someone Who Doesn’t Care About Twitch

    • I know! It’s not like it’s hard to exit completely, but it’s still another step that doesn’t need to be there and isn’t exactly intuitive.

      The businessman in me is actually really excited to see what happens in the partnership between Amazon and an online gaming platform, and having a monthly bundle of games packaged with Prime is a really interesting way to launch it, but it just doesn’t seem viable for anything other than that right now. They could grow it into something, but as is, I agree, it’s basically just an Amazon Prime packaged games delivery service.

  1. I can appreciate the art of livestreaming if somebody knows how to make it work, but otherwise yeah, it seems like in most cases, it’s a better use of one’s time to wait for the highlights compilation. It’s impressive if somebody can do a livestream without too much dead air, but it would be pretty difficult to pull that off every single time. That’s why I generally prefer Let’s Plays instead. As for me, I get the appeal of Twitch, but it seems like this app is only useful for those who use it extensively.

    • Yeah, same. I remember watching livestreaming long before Twitch came around, and even then, the structure provided by more traditional Let’s Plays resonates with me better than livestreaming does. Even though there’s not much quality control in most Let’s Plays, having at least a little there is something I very much appreciate.

  2. Free stuff is a good way of attracting people, but they better start to improve the UI to retain customers. Not being able to pause a download or see prices, at a glance, isn’t great.

    • That is very true. It makes me wonder if this was put together more to deliver Prime games than anything else. I imagine there’s some complications I’m not seeing, but some of these nitpicks, it doesn’t seem too hard to correct.

      But, if they’re going to try to put it to the general market place, try and have a shop there, they’ve got some work to do.

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