Amazon.com. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
New York - Amazon is buying the videogame platform Twitch for $1bn, bringing it access to millions of people who watch games being played on the site, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Journal said the deal is very close to being announced, and would put an end to talks between Google and Twitch, recently reported to be hovering as well around a $1bn price tag.
San Francisco-based Twitch streams games being played for non-playing viewers to watch, and hosts gaming events.
It allows viewers to chat with the players and others, lending it some of the qualities of social networking websites, and it sells advertising to generate income.
The company claims 55 million visitors a month to its website, via desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, and more than one million "broadcasters", gamers who stream video of their games over the internet via Twitch.
It also says that visitors log in long periods on the website, averaging 106 minutes a day per person, putting it in the leagues of streaming video like Netflix.
That would support Amazon in its fight to capture a large share of the streaming audience market. The online retailing giant is already pressing hard to add users of its streaming movie service, hoping to overtake Netflix.
"Broadcasting and watching game-play is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement.
The deal is the latest example of Amazon expanding into new commercial arenas. It introduced its own smartphone, the Fire, this month.
Amazon already has an in-house gaming studio that makes games, and its Fire TV set top box was designed to attract gamers.
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear said Amazon is a good fit because "they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision".
Google had been in talks to buy Twitch, but no deal materialised. Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey believes Google might have been a better fit for Twitch.
"Twitch will be a harder asset for Amazon to use," he said. "It doesn't have the kind of video streaming audience that Google's YouTube does."
However, McQuivey added that Amazon is trying to own more of its own content rather than simply selling others' and Twitch could help the company do that.
"[Twitch] captures people's attention for hours a week and it also creates a product tie-in opportunity that Amazon can capitalise on in a way that Google could not," he said.