It’s been a few days since
news rumors surfaced about YouTube acquiring Twitch for over $1 billion. Let’s put aside the fact that Variety’s “source close to the pact” is probably some guy’s brother’s cousin’s BFF and imagine a Twitch buyout.
Honestly, it’d be a steal at $1 billion; livestreaming online games has taken off. In 2013 alone, the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships drew 32 million viewers. Want to know how many people watched the MLB World Series that year? 15 million. According to Twitch, the site receives more than 45 million unique visitors every month who watch a combined 13 billion minutes of gameplay. And they’ve admitted that it’s gotten to the point where the site “can’t keep up with the growth.”
For perspective, YouTube received around 20 million unique visitors in 2006, when Google acquired the company for $1.6 billion. Since then, YouTube has grown exponentially, with over a billion unique visitors every month raking in at least $5 billion of Google’s $55 billion in annual revenue.
And I don’t see how Twitch wouldn’t get as big, or bigger. Twitch could very well turn into the site that people associate with livestreaming, like YouTube or Netflix is to video on demand. But enough about how good of a deal it’d be for Google; what about us?
Let’s be real: Google probably has one of the world’s top infrastructures with servers worldwide. Twitch’s growing pains and website inconsistencies between the US and EU make the acquisition a “duh” improvement as far as the tech.
But think about the possibilities from a content creator standpoint. Where does YouTube win? Video on demand capabilities that are leaps and bounds better than what Twitch offers (easy upload, intuitive clipping, pause/rewind livestreams, etc.) and offering transcoding to all users. Not only that, but YouTube offers a superior viewing experience for previously recorded videos.
As far as ad revenue is concerned, I can only speculate how it’d affect streamers. Compared to Twitch, it’s relatively easy to get partnership on YouTube with a high CPM rate on ads (although some folks argue that the CPM is about equal between Twitch and YouTube). But remember that most of the things we associate with YouTube now, especially monetization, is due to the Google buyout. Ending the exclusive “Twitch partner” bull and leveraging YouTube’s vastly superior peering agreements would be a huge positive for Twitch’s streamers.
Money aside, I’ve found that the major concern from the community lies in precisely that: The community. What would happen to Twitch’s community after a YouTube buyout? Would YouTube integrate – or even require – Google+ login and/or account merging? Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much about Google+. In recent months, Google has been backing away from forced G+ integration altogether. I imagine a login experience not unlike many other sites offering multiple login options via username, email, Google, Facebook, or Twitter. Although I yearn for accountability in places like Twitch chat, where shitposting, harassment, spammers and the ilk reign, anonymity is prized by gamers.
And what about the music blaring through your headphones? Most streamers play unlicensed music while gaming and – other than the Google+ hate – is a big concern to the community. YouTube’s Content ID system can indeed be flawed. In some cases it completely cripples content creators. But really, how much of the music you hear on a stream is the music you’d want to listen to anyway? Many times, I prefer to simply mute the stream altogether because I’m not in the mood for shitty dubstep. I guess that’s not the point. If a streamer profits from her stream while “Sandstorm” pumps in the background, shouldn’t she pay for the rights to use that song?
I can understand the fear of content being banned or removed due to copyright. But you should be afraid that it’d be removed because of what you’re streaming, not the music you’re playing. Thing is, Twitch is all about streaming gameplay. I don’t think Google would use their standard Content ID algorithm and end up punishing users streaming games. Kinda defeats the point. The music, on the other hand, is a different story.
So, what will happen? At this point, who knows. As with any acquisition, there are many points to argue. For me, the pros of a Twitch acquisition outweigh the cons. Will the world end as we know it? Probably not, but folks will carry on that way anyway.