How can YouTube Gaming close the gap on Twitch?

Alex Calvin
How can YouTube Gaming close the gap on Twitch?

Since it was spun out of streaming firm Justin.tv in 2011, Twitch has risen to be one of the most prominent players in the modern games media.

And with an average 8.5m people coming to Twitch every single day, it's entirely understandable that other firms would want in on the action.

In the last few years, a number of rival streaming companies including DingIt, Hitbox and mobile-focused MobCrush have arrived on the scene. And last August, Google rolled out its live-streaming-focused service YouTube Gaming.

So is market leader Twitch is concerned about this competition?

While we are aware of what other platforms are doing and love that they help validate game video as an important part of the entertainment industry, the direction of our brand is influenced solely by what our community wants,” VP of sales for Europe Steve Ford says. So the short answer is no.”

But, despite having the clout of Google behind it, YouTube Gaming hasn't taken off in the way that many would have predicted.

It's almost unfair on YouTube Gaming because the team is only something like eight people. It's effectively a start-up under the Google umbrella,” Yogscast boss Mark Turpin says.

People think of it as the same entity as YouTube. Really, they've not spent any money marketing it, no-one is getting pushed over there. They have a very soft interaction with the gaming scene, but it could still be a major player. There are lots of companies launching in this space but the audience just isn't there.”

TwoMoreWhiteGuys' Chris Slight adds: YouTube Gaming doesn't have anything that makes me use it more than Twitch. That has all sorts of problems in and of itself, a lot of which have been down to the content and some of the viewer base. If someone asked me if I should go on YouTube Gaming, I have no reason to say I should.”



On paper, with the runaway success of YouTube and the power of Google behind it, YouTube Gaming should have been a success right out of the gate. So what is holding it back?

From the creator's end, it sounded like it had a lot more features. You'd be able to do more with analytics and the like,” Slight says.

We tried it for a bit but it wasn't really anything different. And a lot of people watching us on Twitch didn't migrate over to YouTube Gaming, either. And those that did were complaining about features that were missing, so it wasn't as good for them. And I don't find YouTube Gaming as instantly accessible as Twitch.”

Debbie Timmins – who streams on Twitch as Weefz – adds: The interface is just awful. I can't find what I want. If I want to watch a stream. Every time I look at YouTube Gaming, I don't know where to find anything. I'm not sure what's a video and what's a live-stream. It's just difficult to use.”

"A lot of people watching us on Twitch didn't migrate to YouTube Gaming. And those who did were complaining about missing features."

Chris Slight, TwoMoreWhiteGuys


But it isn't just the interface that's an issue. Viewers aren't necessarily loyal to any one platform, but rather to the personalities that stream on them. And some of these streamers are so embedded at Twitch that it's unlikely they'll move to YouTube.

Big streamers like Lirik are Twitch guys have built their communities there,” Resero Network's Dan Webb says. They aren't going to YouTube anytime soon.”

He continues: Twitch is great because it supports its community, it supports its streamers, it does loads of really cool things with them. If you are a big Twitch streamer, you might ask why you should move. YouTube needs to nail the community thing and that's the big important aspect that Twitch has going for it.”

So what can YouTube do to gain ground on streaming giant Twitch?

They need to push it out,” says Twitch partner Valka aka Overclockers UK's marketing and partnership manager Mark Purdy. It's so corporate. Everything down to the pages and the emotes doesn't seem to be in the hands of the content producer. It seems to be in the hands YouTube. It doesn't feel like the streamer is in control of what they are doing, they just provide the content.

On Twitch, you can do all your own emotes and panels. You can customise them to your needs and your expectations. You can't really do that much on YouTube Gaming.”



Timmins feels there is certainly one area that might help YouTube Gaming overtake the competition.

The major issue with Twitch is discovery,” she says. That is the one place where YouTube Gaming could swoop in and make everything easier. A lot of people don't want to see the bigger streamers because when you reach a certain point, then the chat no longer feels like a community, it feels like a bunch of people shouting. If I want to look for a channel, I want something relatively small. Looking for a game I don't hate with a reasonable viewer count is almost impossible in terms of a decent community.

If YouTube Gaming did something where tags could be applied to channels by streamers or users would be brilliant. These could say whether they're a variety streamer [someone who streams a number of different games] or they're only someone who does one particular game. That would go a long way to finding people who are live and are playing what I want to see.”

Resero's Webb adds: YouTube Gaming just needs to do what Twitch does but better. If you want to do something you either need to be first or have to do it ten times better. It has to get rid of Content ID [system on YouTube that allows companies to ensure their copyright isn't being infringed]. And it would cause a few tremors in the streaming industry if it got rid of the delay. Those kinds of things. I just can't find foresee that happening, which is a shame.

And they need some poster boys for the brand, people to champion it who are using it regularly and are a big and have a sizeable following. Whether that'll take away from Twitch, I'm not that certain.”

HITTING THE SPOT

YouTube Gaming is far from the only new player in the billion dollar streaming market. DingIt launched in February 2015, while Hitbox – which opened in 2013 – aims to become a larger presence in the market following $4m of investment last November.

And the Austrian firm believes it can be make a dent in the market with its proprietary tech.

A lot of people believe there is no room for a second or third player in the streaming market,” CEO Martin Klimscha says. I totally disagree with that. We're the first company pushing for 1080p 60fps streaming. Last year we started with 4K streaming at 60 fps and we're pretty focused on the technology. That sets -us apart from Twitch and YouTube Gaming.”

He continues: We built our own tech, we do not use anything from any third-party. We have great tech and are fully-focused on what gamers need and want and that's very much positive in our community.”

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