YouTube’s Twitch-competitor, YouTube Gaming, launched yesterday as an app on mobile devices and as a website. There are three major improvements that the announcement touts:
- YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.
- Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.
- We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream – check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.
Lets talk about them in reverse order, starting with the streaming improvements.
If you wanted to stream to YouTube before, you had to manually schedule a start time and end time as an upcoming event. Scheduling didn’t suit the unplanned streams that are typical of Twitch and other game streaming sites. There’s a new dashboard for streamers as well that is a definite improvement over the Twitch dashboard because it seems like someone at YouTube actually put some thought into the design and what information streamers want to see when they’re streaming. Large text lets you know the health of your stream’s quality, how many people are watching, and how long you’ve been streaming for.
When you’re finished streaming, the stream will be archived by YouTube and begin processing immediately. Twitch only saves your videos temporarily and waits a short time for you to create highlight reels from them with a YouTube export option. For people who don’t have storage space or the upload bandwidth and time to dedicate to editing and re-uploading a local copy of their recorded stream this could be a great improvement.
Of course there are the typical launch-day issues.
Yesterday, when I first attempted to stream Black Ops 3 to YouTube Gaming from Open Broadcaster Software, the new live video dashboard said that my stream was fine but all viewers saw was a blank “offline” message. Later in the day the issue cleared up and streaming worked.
Overall, the front-end for viewers on YouTube Gaming is redundant when all of the same content is available through YouTube proper. Scrolling through the homepage can best be described as an experience in wondering how a website from a major technology company in 2015 with so many resources can perform so poorly and slow your browser down so much if the new site loads at all. Today when I browse to gaming.youtube.com in Chrome I get a 404 page. Now we’re into launch week issues.
When it does load, YouTube Gaming’s front-end is fine and replaces the most common textual searching for live and archived game videos that users do with graphical box art of games to follow and click on to find what they’re looking for. The carousel of the most popular live video streams at the top of the page is a major improvement over the similar feature on Twitch’s front page. Twitch’s front-door carousel immediately starts loudly defiling your speakers or headphones even if you’re just momentarily browsing the front page while looking for something else or logging into the site. YouTube is nice enough to mute the audio.
The duplicated content just makes me think Google is getting ready for when, like other Google products have done after 6 months to a year, YouTube Gaming goes kaput and reintegrates with YouTube. This is a product that doesn’t need to exist. It is a sub-brand of a sub-brand of a product at a company that was fine without a gaming-specific site. At a time when the major improvement YouTube needs is a reduction in automated copyright notices that deny gaming video creators the ability to monetize their work on that platform YouTube is instead focused on recapturing a group of live streamers that long ago departed for the more live stream friendly waters at Twitch.
Competition for Twitch is good, but in order for a site to compete with Twitch effectively it needs to be useful from day one. YouTube Gaming is not quite there yet.