YouTube vs Twitch: The battle for the billion dollar streaming market

Alex Calvin
YouTube vs Twitch: The battle for the billion dollar streaming market

Last week, Google launched YouTube Gaming.

It's a site dedicated to games video. All gaming content from YouTube is available on the platform, and live-streaming has been made easier than before.

It's an enticing proposition that capitalises on the site's already huge games audience. Games-related content is amongst YouTube's most popular, with fans spending hours watching stars like PewDiePie – the biggest star on YouTube.

The move follows wide-spread reports last year that the firm was attempting to buy streaming giant Twitch. It was Amazon who eventually purchased the firm for $970m.

Gaming has been a big part of YouTube's culture from the start,” the firm's games boss Ryan Wyatt says. Creators and the community have done a great job of growing it and embracing gaming on the platform.

We created a [YouTube Gaming] app and an experience that's just games content. It's optimised to find gaming content. It just allows for a better experience when consuming gaming videos. We still will have games on the regular YouTube - that's not going to change, but we wanted to create an experience that if you're going just for games, it's easier and optimised.

It also allows for better discoverability. We built pages for individual games, so if you only care about certain titles you can go to that and find that content instead of just searching Minecraft and sorting by the last 24 hours. You have to be a bit technically savvy to go through the search process like that.”

Mike Channell, co-founder and presenter of hit YouTube brand Outside Xbox, adds: Gaming is absolutely huge on YouTube. Games and music are the two dominant forms of content on the platform. It's had dedicated apps before – for kids and music – and games seemed like a gap in the market.

And its been possible to stream on YouTube for a long time, but the problem is that it was really difficult to find those streams, you had to learn about them via other social media. Obviously streaming is huge within games – the rise of Twitch is evidence of that – so YouTube really needed to address it. YouTube Gaming makes it so much easier to see which of your subscribed channels are streaming at any one time and discovering those live gaming streams. Obviously YouTube is dominant in the video-on-demand side of gaming, but it's been losing out to Twitch in terms of streaming. There's money to be made and it's got the platform and the technology and there was just no-one using it. This is a real step towards YouTube being a big player in streaming.”

YouTube may be the biggest site in the world for video, but Twitch has a massive headstart in streaming. Just last week the site reported it had 1.5m broadcasters and 100m visitors each month. And now it has the power of Amazon behind it. So can YouTube catch up?

YouTube Gaming will be a one-stop-shop for video and live streaming,” Wyatt answers. That makes YouTube Gaming unique to any other platform in the world, to have both live and video-on-demand content.”

And Channell says that though Twitch has a headstart, YouTube has the resources to compete.

I wouldn't ever count YouTube out. It has huge resource,” he says. Twitch is a big player. But a lot of the existing big gaming YouTubers are going to find it easier to do both their videos and streaming all in one place. YouTube is late to the party, but I'd never discount them as they have that established user base. There are more people watching gaming content on YouTube than there are on Twitch. It has a potential audience of literally millions and as long as they can access that audience they aren't in any trouble.”

Videogamer's head of video production Simon Miller adds: I'd never bet against a Google-backed product – look at how well it does in most spaces. Then again, if you look at [the firm's social network] Google Plus, maybe it is too late. By the time they launched Plus people were too affiliated with Facebook and didn't move across.

YouTube has become such a big deal in its own right. If any service out there can make up the gap, it would be YouTube. It's going to be very hard, it's something they are going to have to be very dedicated to doing. Without the proper momentum behind it, from the people at YouTube, it won't do it.

Live-streaming is new. It hasn't settled into a pattern, so anything could change. It could happen, but it's not going to be easy.”

Twitch is bullish in the face of YouTube stepping onto its territory.

Competition is good for any industry and it validates what we already know, which is gaming video is a huge market that others want a piece of,” Twitch's PR director Chase tells MCV. We're proud of what we've accomplished, but are focused on building upon the foundation we've laid with the Twitch community, and incorporating new features our users are asking for.

One major difference is our culture is built upon a strong sense of community. Within the broader Twitch audience there are thousands of smaller groups that have their own language, built upon the narratives of their channels and gaming interests. Many of these have grown over time and not overnight with a level of passion that is amazing to witness. We've also invested years of development into live streaming tools and features in support of the community, not to mention having a global focus and a presence at every major gaming conference with many exclusive broadcasting partnerships from E3 to PAX.”

Indeed, Twitch has a number of exclusive partnerships. As well as the aforementioned E3 and PAX, it is the official streaming partner of a number of eSports events such as Multiplay's Insomnia (pictured above) But Wyatt thinks these matter less than people think.

We like to focus on non-exclusive content in a lot of ways,” Wyatt says. We had the Call of Duty championships and Nintendo World Championship on YouTube. That's not to say we wouldn't think to do a licensing deal with an eSports league or a platform or something like that. We're the biggest video platform in the world, so we have a lot of people coming to us who want to stream, non-exclusively, multiplatform. We want to support them.”

And Miller says that though such deals might indeed help YouTube Gaming, they may not be the deciding factor in this war.

With no disrespect to YouTube or Twitch, I don't necessarily think that viewers are brand loyal when it comes to these things,” Miller says. It's more about the people they are watching or the games they want to see streamed. So if the content shifts, I don't think people would mind jumping across. You'll get a few people who don't like YouTube, but at the same time if you are watching your favourite streamer and they are going to do that on YouTube, I imagine most people will go there even if they have problems with it. A lot of it is going to be personality-led.

The other thing is they need some exclusive stuff. If Twitch can say – as Sky Sports does – that it has all this stuff that you cannot see anywhere else, you're going to go there.

If YouTube can start tying up similar stuff, and if they can't tap into what Twitch has already done they'll need to come up with new stuff.&

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