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Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

YouTube Gaming, explained

It's a stand-alone video player or app, which will pull in 'all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube'

A week before the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June this year, Google announced its foray into gaming with the launch of YouTube Gaming. In a blog post, it termed YouTube Gaming as “a brand new app and website 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—all in one place".

YouTube Gaming would essentially be a direct competitor to Twitch, a popular game-streaming platform founded in 2011 and later acquired by Amazon for $970 million in September last year.

In June, Google announced that the platform would be going live for users in the UK and the US “this summer".

Well, that just happened on Wednesday night as YouTube Gaming went live.

The global market for gaming videos, according to a SuperData Research report released in July, is worth $3.8 billion, with an audience of 486 million people watching live streams, trailers, walk-throughs and all sorts of gaming-related content made by fans, reports gamesindustry.biz.

What is YouTube Gaming?

Simply put, YouTube Gaming is intended to be “the go-to destination for everything gaming". It’s a stand-alone video player or app, which will pull in “all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube". It will also include content by YouTube star Felix Kjellberg, who goes by his online moniker of PewDiePie. He currently has over 38 million subscribers for his YouTube channel, and is popularly known for his funny sometimes profane ‘Let’s Play’ running commentary on video games.

How does it work?

YouTube Gaming allows users to subscribe to gaming channels, add games to their collection, and allow them to be notified as soon as the channel, or the gamer starts his/her live stream. Likewise, based on the user’s favourite channels and games, YouTube Gaming will provide recommendations, a feature similar to its video service. It also allows users to search “for something specific" which, Google says, its users “can search with confidence, knowing that typing ‘call’ will show you ‘Call of Duty’ and not ‘Call Me Maybe’." YouTube Gaming will also offer high-frame rate streaming at 60 frames per second, DVR and lets users convert their streams into a YouTube video. It will also let users share a single link for all their streams.

Where does YouTube currently stand in terms of gaming?

Since the explosion of gaming video content around 2012, gaming has been a big draw for YouTube. Earlier this year, Google said that people were spending 75% more time watching gaming videos than they did last year. Also, nearly half of Google’s top 100 channels were gaming-related, according to a Bloomberg report. Equally, YouTube Gaming is a result of Google’s long-held interest in game-streaming. Last year, it was rumoured as a prospective buyer of Twitch, now an Amazon-owned service.

YouTube, as a reservoir of gaming-related content, draws more viewers than any other platform, nearly 72%, as per the SuperData report. The data also revealed that YouTube clips “featuring the top ten video game franchises saw 81 billion views in 2014". However, it is Amazon that makes the money. Twitch currently owns 43% of the market share, the highest in terms of revenue. In 2015, Twitch boasted of 1.5 million broadcasters and over 100 million visitors a month.

What do the reviews say?

Jake Muncy of The Wired, in his review of YouTube Gaming ,writes, “It’s smoother, cleaner, and more pleasant to use. Coloured in a steam-reminiscent charcoal, to make us games folk feel at home I suppose, the interface is dense but responsive, compactly offering the same sort of information you’d find on Twitch." He adds, “It’s a lot easier on the eyes, though, especially because YouTube doesn’t have to rely on constant, massive ads filling up the background."

The Verge’s hands-on review of YouTube Gaming says, “While you’re watching a stream, YouTube Gaming looks more like a Netflix-style video service (or YouTube’s mobile app) than its vanilla counterpart does, though the components are similar: you can see comments on the side, give a streamer a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, and subscribe to their work."

While YouTube Gaming’s impact on Twitch and comparisons with Amazon’s platform is inevitable, as VentureBeat writer Jeff Grub notes in his review, “YouTube Gaming does not spell the immediate doom of Twitch. While I like some aspects of what Google is doing better, it’s not perfect. And Twitch didn’t get to the top of broadcasting by accident. It has a smart team that knows what gamers want, and now it also has some real competition that should make everything about this space better."

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