Today, Google put out YouTube Gaming, which is their direct competitor to Twitch.tv. It allows gamers to stream directly to their service, and offers a boatload of features that Twitch either gates or doesn’t offer. I decided to write a little blurb about it, since describing my feelings over tweets is hard, and putting out a YouTube video on this just seems weird.
Right now, you can’t get the resolution/quality options on Twitch until you hit a certain viewership threshold. If you’re not a partner, this is somewhere between 50 and 100 current viewers. Anyone can get this provided they hit that viewership threshold. For partners, you will always have these options. YouTube gaming offers this to everyone right off the bat.
Why is this important? You want your stream to look as good as possible, but without quality options you are forced to severely limit yourself or you’ll immediately cut out a large portion of your viewership. Not everyone has the bandwidth or CPU to watch super high quality streams. This sweet spot seems to be about 2500 bitrate and 30-45 FPS @ 720p on Twitch. I could absolutely make my stream look a million times better, but people WILL complain the stream is unwatchable. It’s something most non-partners just have to deal with.
Similarly, you cannot easily monetize your twitch stream until you hit ‘Partner’ status. You’re able to put up links for donations, Patreon campaigns, or amazon referral links on your page, but you do not get any ad revenue generated by your stream. The level to hit partner depends on a lot of things, and the line is extremely fuzzy. The majority of twitch partners I see clearly do not hit the requirements that Twitch has on their site. Similarly to YouTube videos, you’re able to monetize your YouTube stream immediately. The process is extremely quick and simple. There aren’t options to roll ads at will, which is a slight downside. A lot of streamers do that between Dota 2 or LoL matches, for example. YouTube will run pre-roll, periodic AdSense, and an image ad to the side of the stream.
In addition to that, there’s a “Card” feature, which does let you pop up an image with a link to a website, fundraising sites, channel, or video playlist. A lot of these Card options have specific whitelisted sites in them, and I haven’t heard of most of the fundraising sites. Paypal is noticably absent, for example, but Kickstarter and Gofundme are available.
The DVR and automatic archiving are also nice features. You don’t need to worry about missing a play because you had to pee, just pause, and watch the missing minute or two at 2.0x speed when you get back. Or rewind a bit to see that horrific fail over and over again. Reliving the moment easily is something twitch is sorely missing.
Now the downsides. Multiple people have mentioned to me already that ContentID is going to ruin this system. It does suck, but it’s also a necessary evil. If YouTube’s ContentID system detects you streaming copyrighted material, it’ll warn you, and then mute your stream while it’s live until the copyrighted material has stopped playing. People have reported that this has kicked on during normal gameplay, and not just spotify or pandora in the background. That is bad, but I hope they recognize and get that sorted out. It will immediately neuter their audience if it’s as bad and easily abused as their video copyright system.
That said, we are living on borrowed time with Twitch. It’s easy to deny that is true, or that people will jump ship and move to another service, but it is inevitable. If you’re on a website, and you’re not there to buy something or spend money, then you are the product. Twitch is selling you to advertisers through streams, and they legally cannot do that with other people’s copyrights. Music and movies have had this locked down for decades, and have shown very little signs of adapting or changing. Only a small handful of gaming companies have tried to follow suit, but most have realised this sort of media just grows their brand and audience, and have embraced it.
YouTube’s scaling options also need a bit of work. Right now I stream at 1706×960 @ 30FPS on twitch. This isn’t an option on YouTube. They use the standard resolutions from 1080p to 360p. Mine is a bit off because my native resolution is 2560×1440, which is the next step up from 1080p. Downscaling to 1080 isn’t an option since OBS doesn’t support that level of stepping (1/3rd instead of 1/4th or 1/2) in their codecs. The super non-technical answer is that certain resolutions don’t play nice with the combination of streaming software and platform. That means it has to downscale twice, leaving it a lot muddier and dirtier. It doesn’t matter that my source resolution and FPS were absolutely bonkers, YouTube has just opted to change it to fit their standards. I could take steps to make it look perfect, but that would be degrading my own experience. This is ultimately only a problem for the SMALLEST subset of the userbase, and I’m sure I can work around it without driving myself insane.
Ultimately I think this is a great option, and it works extremely well as a streaming platform. It’s a great alternative to twitch, and is much more inviting to newer/smaller streamers. The big streamers on twitch probably can’t, and won’t switch over due to contracts and existing userbase, but if YouTube can get a big enough userbase of it’s own, Twitch better step up it’s game.