YouTube might be the undisputed king of Internet video, but it doesn't have the video game market cornered - not yet, anyway. While video games remain one of YouTube's hottest topics (in fact, the Google-owned company claims that without its online broadcasting service, speed runs, walkthroughs, and let's play videos would never have caught on), there's one big area where YouTube's missing out.
When it comes to live streaming, Twitch rules supreme. Over 100 million viewers tune in to Twitch every month to check out streams of popular games like League of Legends, Destiny, Minecraft, and whatever else is big at the time. With its video game-exclusive focus, Twitch is one of the industry's most influential players; at least Amazon certainly thinks so, as last year it picked up the streaming company for $970 million.
That's a lot of eyeballs - and even more money - and YouTube and Google want in. This morning, YouTube announced its long-rumored YouTube Gaming platform, a website and mobile app "designed to keep you connected to the games, players, and culture that matter to you, with videos, live streams, and the biggest community of gamers on the web."
YouTube promises that YouTube gaming will make streaming easier than ever, with a snappier interface, automatic archiving, and no need to schedule game streams ahead of time. Just pick up and play. Professional streamers can monetize their channels through ads or fan-based fundraising.
While YouTube Gaming's main focus is live streaming, YouTube is also positioning the site as a general information hub. YouTube's press release claims that "more than 25,000 games will each have their own page," making content easier to sort and find, and brags about a new, video-game-focused search engine; as YouTube puts it, "typing 'call' will show you Call of Duty and not 'Call Me Maybe.'"
This announcement isn't entirely surprising - in addition to the aforementioned rumors, YouTube launched 60 frames per second livestreaming a few weeks ago, which many observers took as a sign that some kind of game-streaming platform was imminent. Google's been interested in video game streaming for a while, too; the company tried to purchase Twitch last year, but the deal fell through due to anti-trust concerns.
In the general public, YouTube is a much bigger brand than Twitch, and YouTube Gaming could siphon away a significant portion of Twitch's audience. On the other hand, for pros, Twitch is a known quantity, and many streamers are already set up there; it'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out when YouTube Gaming launches in the US and UK later this summer.