Having planted its flag firmly on PS4 and Xbox One territory and being a dominant force in the world of eSports, Twitch is a Very Big Deal. Allowing players to stream the games that they are playing, Twitch and its 45 million monthly users have managed to change the face of the industry with live streams of games in progress now being a standard for developers. It's a way to showcase new content and behind-the-scenes development while interacting with the community.
Those plucky stream enthusiasts watch so much of the broadcasted stuff that Twitch streams accounted for approximately 1.35% of all North American bandwidth usage in March 2014. This is a huge chunk out of its competitors’ pie when you consider that YouTube is also vying for the same attention from gamers.
That’s perhaps why YouTube’s parent company, Google, is said to be looking to buy Twitch for a fee of $1 billion. But as rumors of the purchase raise many questions for Twitch’s users, the streaming service has now fractured its player base with its most polarizing decisions yet regarding updates to the Twitch platform.
The first of Twitch’s announcements is that in an effort to stop unauthorized copyright breaks, they’ll be buddying up with Audible Magic to stomp out even the slightest hint of rule breaking. Audible Magic is partnered with the recorded music industry and so any ”unauthorized third party audio” whether that be that ‘bumpin’ new Drake track’ you have on in the background as you play League of Legends or the game’s soundtrack itself, you could find yourself at risk.
And what does ‘at risk’ mean? Well, according to Twitch’s new policy, whenever Audible Magic detects unauthorized tunes, it will mute the video for 30 minutes. Thankfully Audible Magic will only scan and mute archived videos and so livestreams are safe (for the time being) while they're viewed live. Clearly, this is to fit in line with Google's strict (and sometimes out of control) copyright policing and adds credence to the idea that Google may be acquiring Twitch.
On top of the fact that we’ll no longer be able to include whatever music we want in Twitch videos, users are also concerned by that Audible Magic may not be very reliable. While it is effective, technology like this also has a habit of incorrectly blocking out game soundtracks. When YouTube tested out a similar feature it muted everything from Let’s Plays to official uploads of game trailers because it thought it had sniffed out something dodgy.
As expected, no one’s pleased by that but at least it only effects archived videos, right? But wait, archived videos aren't going to be around like they used to either, Twitch now says. Although the button for archiving used to say “save forever”, Twitch is now spinning on its heels while announcing that videos can now only be archived for 14 days after the original broadcast. Twitch’s issue is that “80% of [their] storage capacity is filled with past broadcasts that are never watched” and that they've got entire petabytes of storage being taken up by archived videos that most people have forgotten about anyway.
Twitch also says the decision to erase video game history "is not a move to economize on space," but as users have to either be a Partner or a Turbo subscriber (going Turbo costs $9 a month) for the luxury of 60-day archives, that's hard to believe.
There is somewhat of a workaround to Twitch’s archive restrictions though, since users can export the video to YouTube or put together a highlight reel which can last up to two hours and will stay on Twitch’s servers forever. There’s skepticism about highlights lasting “forever” given that “save forever” didn't last long either.
Alas, as for the muting of videos, even if you export the archived video after its been muted, the exported version will be muted too but as some disgruntled users are suggesting, a solution to every problem thrown up by this potential Twitch/YouTube deal is to just use HitBox instead...