YouTube is already the web's most popular video site, but with the launch of YouTube Gaming across iOS, Android and desktops on August 26th, it aims to claim another title: most popular streaming site. YouTube Gaming bets big on live-streamed and archived gaming videos, with separate pages for more than 25,000 games. Users also get a customized feed of the gaming channels they follow, complete with notifications when each channel is live. All of this means YouTube Gaming is going head-to-head with Twitch, a site that Amazon bought for nearly $1 billion last year, following murmurs that YouTube's parent company, Google, was interested in the same purchase.
Overall, YouTube Gaming's layout is sleek. Live streams are the meat of the new section and they dominate the homepage. YouTube Gaming pulls a live feed from a channel or game that you follow and plays it right at the top of the site (muted, thankfully). Scroll down and videos line the rest of the page, separated into trending, featured, suggested and popular sections, to name a few. Subscribed channels line the right side in a transparent strip, with live channels at the top and marked with a red dot. The left side offers game pages, with those you follow at the top, proceeded by trending and featured titles.
Individual game pages are a completely new feature for YouTube, allowing users to scroll through live, followed, popular and Let's Play videos featuring their favorite titles. Channel pages get a revamp on YouTube Gaming as well, displaying all archived and live videos from a specific streamer, separated into customizable sections.
One YouTuber, HikePlays, helped shape the new Gaming section by offering suggestions to the team from a streamer's point of view. He's a veteran in the live YouTube business, streaming and archiving his videos for hordes of gaming fans since October 2013. "I was streaming on YouTube before people knew there was streaming on YouTube," as he puts it. He now has 1.5 million subscribers.
"There's a certain taboo that comes with being a gamer as an entertainer."
- Hike, YouTube streamer
He notes one particularly interesting piece of information about streaming games on YouTube: Just 10 to 20 percent of his views actually come from the live show. The bulk of his views come from on-demand videos, and this is one reason Hike likes all of his content to be in a singular, easily clickable place. Twitch, by contrast, emphasizes live streaming over archived videos -- and its SVP of Marketing Matthew DiPietro has something to say about YouTube Gaming:
"The opportunity in gaming video is enormous, and others have clearly taken notice. We're proud of what we've accomplished in the last four years, but our eyes are on the future. We are focused on building upon the foundation we've laid with the Twitch community, and incorporating the next-generation features the community has asked for. We are dedicated to being the best social, global, multi-screen video platform for gamers, period."
With YouTube Gaming, Hike hopes game videos will be more discoverable, and he wants streamers to become true, recognized entertainers.
"There's a certain taboo that comes with being a gamer as an entertainer," he says. "I was in the military, I was a programmer, I've had a lot of different careers. I'm not too young. And there's a certain taboo that comes with gaming that people go, 'Oh, you're a gamer. You have the easiest job in the world.' And that's not really true."
Not everyone thinks that gaming for a living is easy business -- the economics of eSports alone make it clear that there's serious talent and money in watching other people play games. With YouTube Gaming, it looks like Google is cashing in its talent and following that money.