Ashley Crocker ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
A huge financial deal is looming that may mark a major moment in the videogaming world. Beginning in the middle of May, rumors started that Youtube, owned by Google, plans to buy the massively popular videogame streaming website Twitch.tv for over one billion dollars.
Twitch.tv was founded in 2011 and draws over 43 million viewers every month. It serves as a streaming site for large videogame companies such as Riot Games and MLG but also services hundreds of amateur gamers. Twitch.tv has a fully integrated subscription system that allows amateur streamers to be financially successful through Twitch.tv. Moreover, Twitch.tv has a chat system that allows gamers to interact with one another. Earlier this year, Twitch Plays Pokemon put social networking and teamwork to the test relying on viewers to guide the hero through a Pokemon journey. While Youtube does have many “let’s play” channels, only a select few have reached the success that many Twitch streamers have found in the videogaming community.
So here is where Google/Youtube comes in. In the gaming world, Youtube hosts many one-time videos, whereas Twitch has power over streaming. On Twitch, viewers watch for an average of an hour and a half a day. This constant attention is very appealing to Google and Youtube who seek to get more constant viewership while simultaneously eliminating a competitor. It is a smart decision for Google/ Youtube, but the gaming community is not so impressed.
Whenever a smaller company is bought-out by a larger company it gives the smaller company access to resources it would not have. In this instance, running under Google/Youtube would most likely make Twitch.tv a cleaner site, as well as giving it access to some of the largest internet databases in the world. The developers also have to be kept in mind; it is a weight off their chest if money becomes less of an issue as it allows them more time to polish their business.
Gamers are mostly worried about Twitch.tv absorbing YouTubes privacy rules. Videogame streaming works very differently than watch-once videos. Will streamers be able to play real music? Will they have to use their real names? If Google does decide to enforce privacy and protection policies on Twitch.tv, a large chunk of the streaming community may disappear. Although this would only affect Twitch streamers who gained revenue on their channels, these popular streamers may go elsewhere.
Another issue arises in advertising. Youtube is very familiar with ads, but Twitch.tv has a relatively low number. For one-time watch videos ads are tolerable, but for live streaming video ads would surely disrupt viewing. Basically what it comes down to is videogame fans are worried that Twitch.tv will be over commercialized if absorbed by a larger company such as Youtube.
The videogame industry keeps growing every year, and honestly, it was foolish for the community to think the industry would be immune from the larger business community. Reported by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, in the United States alone over 67% of households play videogames. Success is success whatever the medium, and now that videogames are pulling in huge revenues, non-video game companies are starting to notice. For gamers, this means that the future will bring more micromanaging and more attempts to make videogames part of the larger media industry. This is the transition from being a sub-culture passion to a mainstream money-maker. But getting more popular is not necessarily a bad thing; if anything, it’s a compliment to the industry.
However, this does not mean that the discerning videogame community should turn a blind eye to this recent growth. As larger companies start seeing videogames as a new revenue partner, it’s up to the community to maintain the core values of gaming. We saw what happened when Xbox did not respect their audience. The gaming community may not be able to prevent buyouts like the one that is looming, but it can most certainly take part in the change to ensure services like Twitch.tv remain faithful to the gaming world.