How YouTube plans to get gamers to ditch Twitch

Google's online video giant launched a new gaming site Wednesday, a year after failing to acquire the streaming video service Twitch.

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Visitors play the video game "Heroes of the Storm" during the Gamescom fair in Cologne, Germany August 6, 2015. YouTube hopes to lure gamers like these to it's new livestream site launching tonight.

Some of the most profitable online video content, live video game streaming, will intensify Wednesday as the competition for providers heats up.

Acquired by Amazon last year, gaming site Twitch has been the go-to site for live-stream viewers, with over a billion page views and nearly 62 million unique visitors a month. But now, Google hopes to even the playing field, and perhaps even capture the market with its video juggernaut Youtube.

Launching worldwide today, could be Twitch’s arch enemy. Boasting YouTube’s current video streaming quality options including fast, full-HD video displayed at a smooth 60 frames per second, as well as its auto quality setting that sends users the connection they can handle, YouTube's tech is nothing to scoff at.

On YouTube's official blog, the streaming service's product manager Alan Joyce posted, “On top of existing features like high-frame-rate streaming, DVR, and automatically converting your stream into a YouTube video, we’re redesigning our system so that you no longer need to schedule a live event ahead of time.” Other existing YouTube features including channel subscriptions and recommendations based on favorites and likes will also be incorporated into the new site.

So why the sudden interest from YouTube? Well, it’s actually not sudden at all.

Many of YouTube’s most-viewed users are gamers, including the site's most-subscribed channel, run by gamer Felix Kjellberg who goes by the name PewDiePie. YouTube has been working on live-streaming functionality since the launch of YouTube Live in 2011, offering live streaming of news and sporting events in the past. After last year’s failed attempt to acquire Twitch, YouTube switched gears, developing an in-house live-stream service dedicated to gaming instead of looking for a third-party provider.

In an interview with the BBC, Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s head of gaming explained, “We wanted to create a one-stop shop for all gaming content. At the moment there is a fragmented experience.”

In order to create that experience, YouTube will pull in existing gaming videos from its main site, in addition to offering individual game pages for over 25,000 games, allowing viewers to easily find both recorded and live content for their preferred game. YouTube Gaming will also launch apps in the United States and Britain for Android and iOS.

But how different is it from Twitch? Features such as recorded chat streams allow YouTube Gaming viewers the ability to see chat streams even if they’ve joined late, a feature Twitch does not offer. According to “The Game Guy,” Max Parker, “YouTube has the advantage when it comes to traffic information. Streamers have access to an array of Google analytics including average live view duration, a breakdown of the resolutions viewers are using, number of playbacks, chat rate and a full record of the chat.”

Ron Amadeo, reviews editor for Ars Technica, wrote, “Live video gets a continually updated seek bar called "DVR mode," and users can pause and rewind a live stream and watch it on a delay—that's a big advantage over Twitch.”

While it remains to be seen whether YouTube will be able to convince gamers to ditch Twitch, the gaming community is eager to see what the service has to offer. As Mr. Amadeo put it, “Twitch should be worried, as it's now in a very tough situation. Every single one of Twitch's users is already a YouTube user – the storage is unlimited, there is tons of content, and even Twitch made exporting to YouTube very easy.”

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