YouTube gets super serious about gaming videos

YouTube gets super serious about gaming videos
written by Hayley Tsukayama

5 My Games

A look at YouTube’s new gaming vertical. (Courtesy of Google)

Enter player two: YouTube stepped into the world of game-streaming Wednesday with the official launch of YouTube Gamine —  its answer to Amazon’s popular gaming site, Twitch.

The new section of YouTube allows gaming companies and everyday gamers to share live or recorded videos about the games of the moment. It also gives YouTube an official home for video game content as the business of watching other people play video games continues to gain popularity.

[He wants to make it playing video games on Twitch. But will people pay to watch?]

Google first announced it would launch YouTube Gaming early this summer, ahead of the industry’s big Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show, known more widely as E3. The debut comes a year after Google lost a bidding war with Amazon to buy Twitch, the Web’s current leader in video game streaming. Amazon bought Twitch last August for nearly $1 billion dollars.  (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post.)

Twitch is Google’s main competition here. But YouTube isn’t starting from scratch: it already has a huge amount of gaming content across its site. The company boasts “billions” of views across its site and says that time its users spend with gaming videos is up 75 percent in the past year. ZEFR, a technology firm that crunches YouTube data, estimates that videos of the walkthrough genre of what is known as “Let’s Play” has garnered 40 billion views in the lifetime of YouTube.

ZEFR also reports that several top game-related searches on YouTube such as “gaming news” and “general gaming” have doubled in the past eight months.

Analysts have looked to YouTube as one of Google’s most valuable offerings, helped by its broad audience. The company is tight-lipped about offering specifics on YouTube views, but did say in 2013 that people watched 6 billion hours of video on the site. It’s safe to assume the total has only increased in the past two years, said Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser in a note to investors last month.

The key for YouTube, Wieser said in the note, will be to turn that scale into money. YouTube, he said, needs to get higher-quality content on the site, or – even better – feature videos that feel high-quality but don’t require a lot of money to produce.

“It may be that YouTube’s business model might be superior if it can limit what it spends on content while continually pushing advertisers to redefine what ‘premium’ is to better match what YouTube can inexpensively supply,” he wrote.

Creating YouTube Gaming gives advertisers a simple way to reach the much-coveted video game audience, said Dave Rosner, senior vice president of marketing for ZEFR. “In the last 10 years, advertisers have really come to understand the value of this audience and take it seriously,” he said.

As for the competition, Twitch essentially said “bring it on” in a statement Tuesday night — though without mentioning its new competitor by name.

“The opportunity in gaming video is enormous, and others have clearly taken notice,” the statement said. But Twitch also highlighted its biggest strength: an existing, dedicated fan base that’s set to join the company in its first-ever convention in late September.

“We have a very ambitious and long-term product roadmap, some of which will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, particularly at TwitchCon, where we’ll have the chance to catch up in person with some of our most prolific partners, and their legions of fans.”

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