Google is set to launch its YouTube Gaming service tomorrow (August 26th), putting it in direct competition with Amazon’s livestreaming giant Twitch – but how will they differ and what should you know as an advertiser or content creator?
Since launching ten years ago, YouTube has grown enormously – and gaming is one of its most popular categories, with the top videos generating tens of millions of views each.
In fact, the 100 most popular gaming channels on YouTube generate around 3.5 billion views in total.
The emergence of ambitious young content creators – like KSI and PewDiePie – have made them internet celebrities and self-made millionaires to boot.
Twitch, meanwhile, has soared in popularity over the past couple of years partly due to the rise of eSports and more gamers livestreaming, allowing viewers to watch them play games live over the internet, from their smartphone, tablet or PC.
Twitch broke the 100 million unique monthly viewers barrier last year, with 1.5 million unique broadcasters per month.
While YouTube does allow content creators to publish content live, it is still best known for its recorded videos which can be watched at any time.
Twitch is almost the opposite. It is well known for its live broadcasts and not so much for watching older content.
I’ve watched live League of Legends pro matches with hundreds of thousands of viewers at the same time. The chat on the right-hand side of the screen is moving so fast you can barely read what viewers are saying. But they’re there, at that moment – altogether – and that can be extremely valuable for advertisers.
This most popular live content comes from eSports matches – not from individual content creators (the most I’ve seen from them is around 40,000 to 50,000 views at any one time).
Replay videos tend to get pushed on YouTube, but it’s like watching a goal from a football match that happened last week. The real value is in the live game – proved again by the vast sums Sky and BBC paid for Premier League TV rights earlier this year.
Twitch makes its money from advertising (usually 30-second ads) displayed during livestreams, as well as broadcaster subscriptions. For example, when a broadcaster gets a Twitch partnership, it allows their viewers to subscribe to their channel for a monthly fee of 4.99, with half of that going to Twitch and half to the broadcaster.
Subscribing gives viewers a host of benefits, from subscriber-only chat to different emotes and sometimes it removes ads, depending on the streamer.
YouTube also makes its money from advertising, with users able to skip adverts after a few seconds.
Personally I prefer the Twitch model. By subscribing to a particular channel, viewers feel they are directly and personally supporting that particular content creator. On YouTube the only way to do that is to watch more of their favourite content creators’ videos to increase their number of hits and advertising revenues.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that Twitch is gaming-focused while YouTube has all kinds of videos, from music to art, humour, documentaries and more.
YouTube Gaming will hope to change that as it goes in direct competition with Twitch.
More than 25,000 games will each have their own page, containing all the latest, most popular videos and live streams about that title. There will also be channels from a range of game publishers and YouTube creators.
Users will be able to add a game to their collection for quick access and check out recommendations for them.
"And when you want something specific, you can search with confidence, knowing that typing “call” will show you “Call of Duty” and not “Call Me Maybe," YouTube said in a blog post.
Like Twitch, livestreams will appear on the YouTube Gaming homepage, and the service will boast 60fps streaming, DVR and automatic converting from livestream to YouTube video.
As it stands, YouTube Gaming – which will launch first in the US and UK – seems like it’s a ‘gaming-only’ version of YouTube with a bigger push into livestreaming. But I don’t think it will turn many viewers away from Twitch.
Twitch has a huge focus on eSports, with League of Legends, Counter-Strike and Hearthstone matches regularly broadcast.
For YouTube Gaming to truly rival Twitch, it will need to attract the developers, publishers and event organisers of these huge eSports games, and strike some exclusive livestream deals with them to prize viewers away from Twitch.
Without that, YouTube Gaming is just a pretty-looking category hub.
It will be interesting to see if any popular Twitch streamers make the jump to YouTube Gaming – that will also be key to Google’s success in the gaming livestreaming arena.