In the past year, Nakamura's popularity on the live game platform twitch has soared, becoming a rising star in the live broadcast industry.
His live content is not the League of heroes, fortress night or minecraft and other popular games, but chess, a game with thousands of years of history. Chess itself has no commercial foothold: its playing rules do not belong to any company or individual, and the possibility of commercialization has long been studied thoroughly. In a way, you can call it an "open source project.".
But under the catalysis of a series of complex factors, chess is taking on a new life. Online chess platform Chess.com In recent years, more than 400000 chess players play online at the same time every day. This number can rank third in steam's hot game list, surpassing pubg, gta5, rainbow No. 6 and other games, next only to dota2 and CS: go.
Nakamura is the "original explosion point" of all this. He used to be the youngest "Grand Master of chess" in the history of the United States, and now ranks 20th in the world. More importantly, he led the trend of live chess. Under his leadership, chess has become a popular category of twitch.
A few weeks ago, during the online tournament pogchamps, chess became the most watched game on twitch.
Chess genius, live ghost talent
Nakamura is one of the pinnacles of American chess.
Born in 1987, he came to the United States with his family at the age of 2. He is half a Native American. He began to play chess at the age of 7. At the age of 15, he won the highest title of "grand master" in the field of chess, breaking the record of "youngest Grand Master".
Nakamura won the US chess championship five times. At the peak, his ranking points of chess power reached 2816, ranking second in the world. He helped the U.S. team win a gold medal in the 2016 chess Olympics. Up to now, his chess power is still ranked in the world's 20.
But now, Nakamura is not just a "professional chess player", he has another identity, twitch star anchor.
In 2017, Nakamura began to try to live chess on twitch. In the early days, he didn't focus on live broadcasting. Occasionally, he opened a live broadcast with only a few hundred audience. But he came up with a series of live broadcasting methods with "program effect", such as "playing fast chess" to defeat the opponent in a very short time; "playing blind chess", blindfolded, remembering the changes of each hand of the chessboard only by the actions reported by the opponent; "letting the chess players play" to defeat the opponent without one or more key chess players.
In March last year, COVID-19 began to wreak havoc in the United States, playing chess games and activities under various lines. Nakamura began to increase his live frequency and duration. Soon, he began to generate a positive feedback with the audience. The average number of viewers in the live room soared from 2000 to 20000, and the number of subscribers also increased wildly. By the summer, he had 400000 subscribers.
Nakamura is indeed a "live ghost.". He is good at playing fast chess. His tactical style is very radical. He ranks in the forefront of the world in many fast chess events. Those fast chess matches that end in a few minutes are obviously more suitable for live broadcasting than ordinary chess matches that end in a few hours. Moreover, most professional chess players tend to be introverted. Even if they have a live broadcast, they often just focus on their own game in silence. In contrast, Nakamura not only has excellent chess strength, but also has a cheerful, likable character.
During the live broadcast, he will browse the discussions related to himself on reddit, watch the ghost animal video on YouTube at the request of fans, and interact with the bullet screen. He knows how to run his own "live set" and will rank American fast food restaurants together with other anchors, triggering a barrage of crazy discussions. He also often indulges in the "3D Pinball" game of Windows XP, taking time to eat a salad in a key match. All these become about his "stem".
Nakamura's personal charm has also attracted the attention of other anchors. Last April, Mr. Nakamura took a chess lesson with xqc, the star anchor who ranked No. 4 in twitch's subscription number. This became an important turning point for Nakamura to get great attention. After that, he began to cooperate with more star game anchors to broadcast live, to carry out some games with teaching significance, or to guide them. Under the catalysis of these cooperative live broadcasts, Nakamura's reputation has been greatly improved.
This kind of live teaching has gradually made Nakamura a "father like" role, which reminds many audiences of learning chess in their childhood. And "nostalgia" is just an important part of twitch community culture. On the one hand, Nakamura's success is due to his keen sense of Internet trends and "blockbusters". On the other hand, it is due to his collective nostalgia for the past.
"He has proved that no matter how boring a game is, as long as you find the right person to play it, it can become popular in twitch. "Twitch anchor destiny said of Nakamura.
Now, Nakamura has 1.1 million subscribers on twitch, which is equivalent to the official event channels of the League of heroes, such as LCs and Lck.
A bigger game
It's not a whim for Nakamura to play chess live. Behind him, someone is playing a bigger game.
Back in 2017, the "behind the scenes" that prompted Nakamura's live broadcast on twitch was a man named Chess.com Online chess platform. Nakamura joked that Daniel Rensch, the "chief chess officer" of the company, locked him in a small room and told him that if he wanted to get a sponsorship contract, he had to play live.
During Nakamura's live broadcast, Chess.com And a lot of help. In 2018, the company organized and established a small team to help Nakamura solve some technical problems in live broadcasting and improve the quality.
The company was founded in 2007, and it didn't start early. At that time, chess was already a kind of "ancient" event. The digitization of chess games and AI engine are not new concepts. As early as 1997, IBM's super computer "dark blue", which is specially used to analyze chess, has already defeated Kasparov, the world champion of chess at that time. Announced AI's "power crush" on people.
To some extent, the popularity of chess is relatively low Chess.com It provides an excellent opportunity for development. At that time, people generally believed that chess had little commercial value potential, and it was difficult for online chess platform to make its own technical threshold.
In 2005, founder Erik allebest didn't make much effort to buy it chess.com This domain name. With better domain names, Chess.com It was officially launched in 2007 and soon became the mainstream online chess platform. After that, it took over chesspark, another chess website. The founding team of chesspark decided that there was no business opportunity in the field of chess and directly abandoned the company to become a search engine.
From 2007 to 2017, Chess.com It has become the most mainstream online chess platform, attracting 20 million registered players and dominating this "niche". But it's not willing to. The company has bigger ambitions.
Chess.com Already the most mainstream chess platform in the world Chess.com
In 2018, Chess.com Acquired a chess AI engine Komodo, which was considered to be the most advanced AI algorithm engine at that time. Around the algorithm engine, Chess.com Developed a series of auxiliary functions, such as "double set analysis", so that players can find their own mistakes and missed opportunities in the process of double set. They also developed a "chess puzzle" game, so that new players can be familiar with some basic tactics and formulas in the chess game during the decryption process.
Using AI engine, Chess.com Engineers have also developed dozens of "AI opponents with different personalities.". They collected a lot of matchmaking data of chess legends, and based on these data, they created AI with the style of these legendary chess players. Some of the AI will also adjust the following moves according to the player's position, and try to simulate a "comparable opponent" instead of simply crushing the player.
There is only one purpose to do all this: to lower the learning threshold of chess, and to help more people interested in chess learn and hone their chess power with rich functions and AI tools.
last, Chess.com We also need to find ways to let more people know about chess. It's targeting live. This concept may not be new in the Internet industry, but it is definitely a new media form for chess with a thousand years of history.
In 2018, Chess.com He established a cooperative relationship with twitch and began to sponsor and encourage players to play chess live on twitch, including Nakamura. Chess.com Nick Barton, vice president in charge of business development, said in an interview, "considering the audience size and market potential of the chess program, we aim at the" waist traffic "in the live broadcast field, hoping to achieve growth. 」
The feedback came quickly. Two years later, Nakamura became a star anchor and signed a contract with TSM, a well-known US E-sports team, with more than 1 million fans. Live chess broadcasting is becoming a new trend. In January this year, twitch users watched 18.3 million hours of live chess broadcasting a month, which is equivalent to the whole year of 2019. And the popularity of live broadcast has also been successfully transformed into Chess.com The number of users is increasing. Since 2017, Chess.com The number of registered players tripled from 20 million to 57 million.
Live broadcasting is not just Chess.com It's a good move for twitch, too. Most video games have clear copyright ownership, belonging to a few large companies. This means that game companies theoretically have the right to cut off the live broadcast of their own games on twitch. This will not happen at present, but if the live broadcast cake gets bigger and bigger, and the game company wants to join the game itself, the situation will be difficult to say. After all, something similar has happened to Netflix. As an "open source game", the risk of a similar situation in chess is much lower. Moreover, the diversity of live content is what twitch wants to see.
In 2020, during the outbreak, twitch and Chess.com Co hosted the first pogchamps online chess tournament. It's not the top chess masters who take part in the competition, but the star anchors on twitch, with Nakamura as the guide and commentator. The competition won great popularity and broke all kinds of ratings records.
Soon after, the second and third pogchamps were quickly organized, and the popularity was rising.
New ways to play old games
With the heat, Nakamura and Chess.com It has also caused some controversy.
Chess has a certain "elite attribute" since ancient times. People at the bottom and on the edge are excluded from this community. Netflix's latest big fire drama "abandoning the army on the back wing" tells the story of Beth Harmon, a talented female chess player, who emerged in the chess world in the 1950s and 1960s and finally defeated the Soviet Union's chess world champion. At that time, female chess players were very rare.
So Nakamura's practice of playing chess with "rookies" live is regarded by some people as a sign of flattery. They believe that for the sake of traffic and reputation, Nakamura spends a lot of time playing chess with those network celebrities, playing some entertaining "let's play games", rather than focusing on honing his own chess power, which will make chess more and more popular and entertaining.
include Chess.com The pogchamps competition held by some professional chess media editors is regarded as a kind of "show" because there are few real chess masters. This kind of competition is only for entertainment and traffic, but not for the purpose of bringing players' chess power to a higher peak. Including veteran figures in the field of chess, they also commented on twitter, comparing pogchamps to popcorn movies.
In fact, the ultimate goal of chess has long changed. In 1997, "dark blue" defeated Kasparov. From that day on, AI represents the pinnacle of human beings in the dimension of "chess power". As a chess player, no matter how hard you work, it's almost impossible to defeat AI. Just like in 2017, after alphago defeated Ke Jie, no go player ever beat it again.
These ancient games, which embody human wisdom, must embrace new ways of playing.
With the help of the traffic brought by the live broadcast and the increasingly rich and perfect chess playing methods, Chess.com The number of registered players is close to 60 million, and the number of online players is close to 500000 every day, which is equivalent to many mainstream online games. Besides advertising, Chess.com It is also exploring the business model of "subscription system", packaging some advanced analysis functions into "upgrade packages" that need to be subscribed to, and selling them to users.
Chess used to be a very elitist community. The value of chess players was completely defined by "ranking points". But now, the career path of chess players has become wider, and the benefits of live broadcasting can support more chess players to stay in the professional field. This community is integrating into twitch and becoming a complex cultural organism.
Nakamura also believes that media platforms such as twitch and Youtube are crucial to the sustainable development of chess. In view of the elitism atmosphere of the chess community, he said that just because he is better at chess than others, it does not mean that he is smarter or better than others.
In a live broadcast, Nakamura recalled that after winning his first national championship in 2005, he played fast chess with the audience in the hotel lobby until two or three o'clock in the morning. "I always wanted to bring chess to the public," Nakamura said. He hopes to become a propaganda Ambassador of chess with the help of twitch. "I play chess with other anchors. On the one hand, I hope they can feel happy from playing chess. On the other hand, I hope they can find some clever moves. This is my ultimate goal. 」
A bullet screen responded to him, saying that he had never played chess before, because his favorite game anchor played chess with Nakamura, which aroused his interest in chess.
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Link to the original text:Geek Park