YouTube came out swinging as part of the pre-E3 hype train today, announcing through a series of tweets and some PR pushed to gaming sites that they are launching YouTube Gaming this summer:
Introducing YouTube Gaming. Level up.
(Details incoming) pic.twitter.com/aAyknmy3Vh
— YouTube Gaming (@YouTubeGaming) June 12, 2015
Is it a big market? You betcha. Just look at Twitch’s own data regarding their audience reach in this post recapping their 2014. 100 million unique monthly viewers is nothing to sneeze at. And 1.5 million unique broadcasters. There’s ad dollars in them thar hills.
There’s a post on Polygon that’s largely regurgitated PR-speak, but it includes most of the information you need to know about the service. The last paragraph hits what YouTube thinks is their main competitive angle here:
Product manager Barbara Macdonald showed off YouTube’s improvements for livestreamers at today’s event, walking attendees through the streamlined process that only requires a few clicks to set up. YouTube Gaming will let streamers enable DVR so viewers can rewind live broadcasts, and a new low latency streaming option will let streamers “really interact with [their] fans while gaming.” Macdonald also promised improvements to chat moderation, something she’d said users had been requesting.
As a pretty infrequent and not horribly successful streamer on Twitch, here are some brief thoughts on the upcoming competition. (YouTube Gaming doesn’t launch until “summer.”)
The Twitch Advantage
Twitch has a huge head start and a dedicated vertical audience. And they have done some things very, very well:
- They have a fairly robust app ecosystem that encompasses not just iOS and Android but also consoles and some set-top boxes. It’s pretty easy to consume Twitch content.
- It’s also very easy to stream with Twitch, with support being built in to some games now and both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 having support for streaming built in at the OS layer. There are multiple app choices on PC/Mac for streaming to the platform, as well.
- They have a chat and streamer community that (at least so far) isn’t overly toxic and tends to be pretty positive.
- They have a great API and other aspects of the service (like chat operating over IRC) that give them a pretty broad support base within the developer community.
- They make it pretty easy to find other content that you are interested in, either through game listings, channel hosting (where someone you watch can “host” someone else’s stream to boost their reach), and a featured channels list that is fairly well-curated.
- They dogfood their own service and host various programs of their own—and a lot of their staff have been hired from within the community itself.
- Major gaming events are almost exclusively streamed on Twitch.
They also have been doing what they can to improve things recently, with changes like reduced video latency to make it easier to interact with the chat channel, and the addition of more features to their mobile apps, which have been okay-but-not-great for a while now.
YouTube’s Potential Supremacy
YouTube has some potential to shake things up, though. Here’s what they need to do to snag significant numbers of audience and streamers from Twitch:
- Good integration with their existing device app ecosystem (like on consoles or Apple TV).
- An amazing mobile and tablet app that just smokes everything Twitch offers right now—which according to the language in their press so far, sounds like it’s a priority.
- Low chat latency and the ability for users to write bots and other community tools that interface with things like follows, subscriptions, etc.
- Moderation tools that don’t horribly suck for dealing with their notoriously toxic community.
- Better console and app support for people who want to start streaming to their service.
- Analytics and monetization tools that are easy-to-use and available to everyone using the platform. This is where they can hit Twitch the hardest. Twitch requires you to be selected as a Partner before you are able to make money off your stream or get good insights into your numbers. It’s kept the subscription-enabled streams at a pretty high quality, but if there’s a gold rush to YouTube the numbers will suffer.
- Hiring of people within the community to represent streamers and viewers and be enabled and encouraged to participate in that same community as part of their jobs. Based on some other tweets from today, it sounds like they are indeed doing this.
YouTube’s biggest problem is just going to be making this a vertical that gets the right amount of attention and focus, while enabling content creators to moderate their communities to keep the toxicity at a minimum.
If they spend the correct amount of time and money on this product, I think they will have a success on their hands. And I think the best-case scenario is YouTube growing the overall game streaming community, not stealing numbers from Twitch. Competition is good!
The best response to this announcement came from Twitch’s Twitter account, by the way:
— Twitch (@Twitch) June 12, 2015
And poor Hitbox is just kind of over in their own little corner, neither being noticed nor making much noise.