Twitch has begun the beta of an animated emote system called a "Cheer" for a select group of Twitch partners according to a post on the Twitch blog.
Cheering uses "Bits", a system of animated emotes that you can buy. Bits are used by typing in "cheer###" up to 255. Using more bits to cheer will create flashier animated emotes. Cheers accumulate and award individual users with Badges at different ranks depending on how many Bits they've sunk into that particular channel so far.
You don't have to be subscribed to the channel to Cheer. The animated emotes will show up in chat, and Twitch has stated that it will be possible for third-party plugins to build on the Cheer system via chat messages and through the PubSub system. REST API support will be coming at some point in the future.
Bits can currently be purchased via Amazon Payments and used on participating Twitch partner channels listed on the blog post. Twitch is looking into adding additional payment processors and currencies as time goes on. Bits can be purchased by clicking the "Cheer" icon next to the emote button in chat. Some of the offerings include 100 Bits for $1.40, 1,000 Bits for $19.95, and the maximum of 25,000 bits for $308 (a 12% discount).
The FAQ page for cheering has some additional details. As far as I can tell, it seems that the "Bits" currency is consumed whenever you Cheer with a certain amount. The streamer will get a portion of the revenue (likely based on how many Bits you've used) although Twitch does not specify what the split is. As a point of comparison, a Twitch partner splits the $5.00 monthly subscription fee 50/50 with Twitch according to a 2014 International Business Times article. Paypal typically charges around 2% to process a transaction; the money-moving service is a popular avenue for streamers to receive donations.
The comments on the blog post are tearing Twitch a new one. I don't necessarily think the idea is silly - loads of different sites have some kind of "Buy tokens for the person on screen" system and this is Twitch's version. However, I think it's silly how they're trying to make out Cheering to be this awesome thing instead of just outright saying "It's a tip jar for streamers that also has a cool emoticon". From the subscriber side of things, I'm not sure I would find an animated emote a worthwhile investment if I wanted to give the streamer a one-time donation. Why not just donate directly to the Paypal link (or something similar) that nearly every professional streamer has and be assured that they're going to get like 98% of the money I send them?
What do you think of Twitch's new "Cheering" emotes? Would you ever make use of such a service yourself? Do you think it will be successful? Let us know in the comments below!