I’ve been a fan of Twitch ever since it started out as Justin.tv. It was, and still is, my go-to website on a random weekday night when I was free from work or if I just needed something to distract myself with as I level-grinded in a JRPG. A couple of days ago, Variety reported on a rumor stating that YouTube was in the process of acquiring Twitch for a cool sum of 1 billion dollars. And, unsurprisingly really, the internet flew into a frenzy while making panicked claims that this move was going to ruin Twitch.
It’s true; Google really doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to protecting content creators on YouTube from content ID matches and copyright strikes. This is especially true for Let’s Players on YouTube who make money off of posting their video game playthroughs with live commentary on the site. They have to deal with issues such as making sure licensed music doesn’t play in their videos or they could risk getting that video get slapped with an ID match and not be able to earn any profits at all.
But I’m here to tell you that the whole matter of Google buying over Twitch doesn’t mean that the Twitch apocalypse is upon us. Not just yet.
First of all, what exactly is Twitch? I like to think of it as a concentrated community for gamers to share and bond over their common interests in video games. Ever since the dissolution of traditional arcades in shopping malls, it’s become increasingly difficult to connect with like-minded people who could understand your passion for a particular game. Live streams on Twitch generally consist of a number of viewers watching the streamer play a game, and then interacting with each other in the chat box on the right side of the screen. It’s the perfect way for you to meet new gamers because you actually get to interact with people in real-time.
Twitch was essentially built from the ground-up by passionate gamers for equally passionate gamers. It’s a wonderful place to find like-minded people, definitely, but that doesn’t mean that Twitch is without its problems. With Google buying out Twitch for 1 billion dollars, this means that all this money could potentially help to fix a lot of the hiccups that the site has and make general improvements to it.
Twitch is plagued with a series of minute problems that could snowball into a bad user experience overall: some difficulty in navigating the site, streams dropping to 240p because of low bandwidth, unprecedented stream and chat crashes, and the awful video archiving system that the site currently has. Having Google step in with all its riches and resources would definitely be a good thing for Twitch, in terms of improving its infrastructure. Sure, Twitch would’ve eventually reached the point where it has enough funding to fix all of these issues, but with Google’s help, they’re going to get there even faster.
A lot of people are also worried that the aggressive copyright policies currently enforced on YouTube would also carry over to live streams on Twitch. This is an understandable concern. It’s entirely possible that these policies could cause many streamers to lose their ability to broadcast their gameplay and even receive strikes on their own accounts. However, people need to remember that the big companies like Sony and Microsoft do recognize that streaming is vital to the gaming industry now. Heck, just the fact that both the PS4 and the XBOX One support streaming capabilities is proof that they are very much aware that social media is essential for their business. If Google were to enforce these policies and prevent streamers from showing off their gaming content, it would almost certainly mean a fall in revenue for game developers, publishers, and by extension, the companies that produce gaming consoles.
It’s a widely recognized fact that live streaming is essentially a form of free advertising for game developers and this is why Let’s Players still exist today, even if they’re under a very tight watch. Watching a stream of a video game will influence the buyer’s decision on whether to buy that particular game or not, and this is something that we shouldn’t forget. I’d like to think that Google, as a business, knows this and will recognize the potential ramifications of slamming the hammer down on our live streamers.
YouTube already supports streaming to a limited capacity and this merger with Twitch will certainly help to improve that function. With that said, isn’t it also entirely possible that Google is buying Twitch precisely because it recognizes that there’s money to be made from streams related to the gaming industry? Twitch has been so well-known for crazy phenomena like Twitch Plays Pokemon, and its various marathon streams dedicated to raising money for charitable causes. It’s made up of an amazing community that has demonstrated that gamers, as a whole, can connect socially and do wonderful things for the industry and society as an extension. With a community as active and passionate as ours, there’s no way Google can just ignore us.
I’m fully aware that this whole business with Google acquiring Twitch and talks of a Twitch-YouTube merger could very well mean the downfall of gaming streams and content creators in general. It really all depends on what Google intends to do with their new asset. Ideally, I would prefer that Google just allows Twitch to remain as the gamers’ community we all know and love and that they could just back it up financially and allow it to flourish. The ball is in their court, really.
I choose to remain cautiously optimistic about this issue because we shouldn’t discount the very viable possibility of this being beneficial to all parties. Is the Twitch apocalypse upon us? I really don’t think so.
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