YouTube Gaming vs Twitch: Yay or nay?
Yesterday marked the first day of the YouTube Gaming beta - a brand new service on YouTube that allows you to see gaming livestreams and content from your favorite gaming creators. Just like with YouTube Kids or YouTube Music, it provides a dedicated app and website portal specifically for users to stay connected to the games, players, and culture that they're looking for, without any distractions.
At least, that is what YouTube is hoping to provide.
Once upon a time, Google was in the running to purchase the ever-growing Twitch streaming platform - after Amazon sniped it with a last-minute bid, what could they do to continue trying to consolidate an ever-growing section of viewership other than to build their own?
While Google has been relatively quiet and is pushing out this particular platform with as little fanfare as possible, it's impossible to ignore the fact that they have purposely coincided it with PAX Prime in order to showcase some of its streaming capabilities.
On the one hand, this can only be a good thing - after all, anything with a monopoly grows stagnant. While Twitch has been supremely proactive about improving its streaming services, YouTube Gaming promises to be big enough to give it a healthy dose of competition - and has already secured special deals with a number of personalities and organizations to help build the hype.
On the other...well, YouTube has offered a live broadcasting package for years. But if you ask anyone who's ever tried it, they'll tell you it was a convoluted, complicated mess that requires entirely too much Google+ integration and was not user-friendly in the least.
While this has and continues to change (with some good effect, but generally to the annoyance of most YouTube users) and the service has since become a lot easier to use, YouTube still faces a number of issues that keep it from supplanting Twitch's place in the top spot:
1. Twitch already works, and it works well.
Perhaps not perfectly, but what it does, it has made leaps and bounds in improving. A year or two ago, I was ignoring each and every stream broadcast because I could get perhaps 5 straight seconds of stream before it was cut for an ad, or froze, or lagged so badly it wasn't even worth watching. These days you can catch up on streams or past broadcasts without issue, even on mediocre internet connections.
The community aspect has and will always have the good and bad points of gamers let loose on the faceless Internet stalking grounds, but Twitch comes with a number of good tools for both streamers and mods.
From what I've seen of YouTube gaming streams, the interface does not appear all that different, except perhaps less emoticon spam. The incessant begging for subscribers/followers, pictures of hot girls, and shoutouts... well, they simply are what they are.
2. YouTube promises the same copyright enforcement for streaming as for videos.
And if you've talked to any YouTube content creator about that, they'll tell you what they think of it. Loudly. And in a number of four-letter words, none of which include "love."
YouTube has stated that the same rules still apply, as well as the same algorithms to monitor audio, music clips, and visual cutscenes that have gotten so many legitimate Let's Players hit with flags, copyright notifications, copyright strikes, and deleted channels over the years.
None of these things lend itself well as a streaming platform, where most gamers can't really take care of all these things on the fly. If too much of a cutscene is shown, the copyright bots can simply mute it, hide it, or take it offline - we've already seen some (small) examples of it in a few of the PAX Prime live game footage videos.
Of course, one thing YouTube does have going for it is its monetization model.
While money may not be an issue for the majority of people interested in streaming their gameplay, the fact of the matter is that quite a few of your favorite personalities rely on the income they generate from doing just that.
Qualifying for compensation from ads shown on videos has always been relatively simple for YouTubers - it can take as little as a few weeks of work if you know how to do it right. In this respect, YouTube probably trumps Twitch soundly - Twitch maintains quite a high requirement for hits and views and followers that can take months if not years for streamers to qualify for ad money.
For the most part however, the majority of revenue generated by content creators on either platform doesn't really come from ads but rather through a mix of merchandising, sponsors, and viewer donations. A solid platform that makes it easy for streamers to get their money (and not just from ads) may be just the thing to make a few regular streamers jump ship.
There's already some evidence of effort to this end with YouTube's integration with Google Wallet.
The rest may just be smart marketing - exclusive coverage for certain events and tournaments, better deals with bigger streamers... if you build it (and build it well), they will come.
What do you think?
Do you prefer one over the other? Like the one-stop-shop idea that the whole Google+ thing offers? Holding out to see which shows what and how well? Let me know in the comments!