The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of YouTube Gaming

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Since launching last month, YouTube Gaming has had a rocky start. Touted as a one-stop shop for the intersection of gaming and video content, this new Google platform was set to merge the massive video-on-demand library of the platform with the huge market of live streamers. Does it match up to its biggest competitor, the Amazon-owned Twitch? Can it garner a following? Most of all, is it even usable?

Here’s the good, bad and the Ugly of YouTube Gaming.

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The Good

One Landing, One Location, One Game

The major benefit to condensing all YouTube videos on the platform into games is that you’re able to instantly browse the content you want, and immediately see what you’re looking for. If I’ve been out of the loop on League of Legends videos for a while, I can go to that game section and immediately see what’s trending, what’s popular this week, and what the big names in League videos have been producing. It also provides an easy method for users to consume more content they want to see without having to seek it out. Popular videos are presented right away, so you don’t have to wade through pages of “Mordekaiser Carry 5.16” videos just to get to a decent guide, and you can then jump to other videos as they interest you thanks to the platform suggesting similar, popular League content.

100% Concentrated Platform

Before the launch of YouTube Gaming, the viewer base for streamers was fragmented. The native VOD system for Twitch wasn’t very easy to navigate, and cutting highlights became an extra step in trying to export your content for viewers. This led to most streamers turning to Twitch for live streaming, and YouTube for VODs of those streams, creating a disconnect. With YouTube Gaming, it’s all one unified platform—it’s easy for someone to be watching your stream, see a previous recording from your channel and jump into that, because it’s all located in a single browser.

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The Bad

The Cogs Aren’t Turning in Unison

There’s a fair amount of technical hitching still to be worked out. Users are reporting sporadic stream refreshes and lower quality video compared to what they can stream from Twitch, as well as certain browsers just plain not working with the platform. I’m currently writing this piece in Google Docs on Chrome, a Google web browser, but access to YouTube Gaming doesn’t work in my Google browser. Basic functionality is something that should be worked out in the beta stages, and still having issues with display in browsers and bit rates, especially with “home turf advantage” on Chrome, is not a strong foot forward for a new video platform.

No Kappa, No Kash

YouTube Gaming lacks a lot of the services that Twitch streamers have come to enjoy. Monthly subscriptions are a major revenue stream for career streamers, and incentives like global emotes are key to both driving viewer engagement and building Twitch community culture (:Kappa:), yet both of those features are suspiciously absent from YouTube Gaming. It’s unclear whether Google plans to forge ahead with new ideas for generating stream revenue, but many gamers have found a way to make a living playing games on Twitch, and unless YouTube can offer comparable means there’s no reason for them to make the jump.

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The Ugly

Where’s the Streamers?

The hardest part of developing any new platform is making sure you have the pull to bring in viewers, and for gaming streams, that’s the personalities and streamers. Big names pull in big viewers, and events like the League Championship Series, The International and EVO are huge number aggregators for Twitch. So far, there’s been no big name streamers to switch to YouTube Gaming, and no official e-sports stream has chosen to stream on YouTube over platforms like Twitch, Azubu or MLG.tv.

Copyright Protection

Many of these points factor into the troubles of YouTube Gaming, but truly frustrating is the implementation of YouTube’s notoriously aggressive copyright claim systems. Much like on the main YouTube platform, developers and publishers are free to issue copyright claims on VODs and streams. While this was trouble enough for some in a video-on-demand system, the ability for some to pull down streams if they find coverage unfavorable is a big turn-off for anyone looking to get in on the ground floor of YouTube Gaming.

After a month we still can’t tell whether YouTube Gaming will thrive and provide Twitch with some actual competition in the streaming business, or if it’ll go the way of the many failed video platforms before it. One thing’s for sure: streamers are likely to stay away so long as the current copyright policy stands, and that’s likely the biggest hurdle for YouTube to overcome in the next few weeks. Until then, we’ll just have to keep feeding our e-sports addictions on the same old channels we’ve always been using.