Right now, Twitch is the website on which to stream your video game play. There are plenty of professional streamers who make full time income just from playing video games for their audience, and countless regular gamers streaming for fun. Recently, YouTube added feature that they hope will draw more streamers to their platform: 60fps streams. However, I believe that this is not going to convince anyone to switch from Twitch to YouTube, and I’ll explain what I think YouTube absolutely must do if they want to even begin to compete in the video game streaming market.
YouTube is barely catching up
While adding 60fps streaming is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s something that every other streaming site had much longer. The fact that YouTube is only adding it now suggests that gamers are just an afterthought. A case of, “hey look what those Twitch guys are doing, maybe we can get in on that!” But the reason more gamers don’t stream on YouTube is a fundamental one: The community features are non-existent.
On Twitch, viewers can use the chatbox to post little emojis and pictures to express themselves, and while this might seem trivial, it’s a core part of Twitch’s identity. It’s truly a fun way to interact with other viewers and to post the perfect emoji as a reaction to something that happens in game, instead of just walls of text scrolling by. In addition, Twitch partners are able to upload their own emojis that only their paid supporters can use, both in their chat and anywhere else on Twitch. This has the double benefit of rewarding fans who support the streamers, but it also gives them the ability to show off their support and promote their favorite streamer. Just like someone may wear a T-shirt for their favorite band, fans can user emojis from their favorite streamers, creating a real sense of community between other subscribers.
There is much more incentive to stream on Twitch
Besides the fact that there are more potential stream viewers on Twitch, streamers (particularly popular ones) have huge incentives to stream exclusively on Twitch. When a streamer gets a big enough audience, he is able to become a Twitch partner, which allows fans to subscribe for $5 a month and support them in return for a few features. These include the custom chat emojis I mentioned, the ability to enable subscriber-only chat mode, and a badge that shows up next to subscribers in chat. Of course, the streamers also get 50% of the $5 a month subscription fee for every single subscriber. It should quickly become apparent why a popular streamer would want to stream on Twitch, where they can earn more money and have a more interactive fan chat. On YouTube, all you can do is display an ad to monetize your stream, and fans are restricted to unicode emojis and text.
The Twitch API allows for amazing third party tools
One of the great things about Twitch is that their API allows for some awesome streaming tools for the streamer. This includes apps that will notify you when you gain a new subscriber or follower, as well as display the new viewer’s username right on the stream for all to see. You are also able to heavily integrate donations into the stream, by showing donors, amounts, and donor messages right on the stream. This not only allows the streamer to instantly thank the streamer, but it also adds to the satisfaction of the donor since they know their charity has been recognized. In addition, showing new subscribers and donors on the stream encourages would-be donors and subscribers to contribute. There are no tools like this available for YouTube, but apps like these are used by every major streamer, and are an essential part of their stream.
What YouTube needs to do
To even begin to compete with Twitch, YouTube needs to add incentives and features for not only the streamer, but also the audience. Additional community features are an absolute requirement, whether that means adding custom emojis or something we’ve never seen before. YouTube also needs to add some sort of “tiered-fan” structure, that allows the biggest fans to support their creator in some way. This does not even need to necessarily be by donating – perhaps if the fans that have been subscribed to the creator the longest get a special badge. Of course, I do believe there should be a way to pay for additional exclusive features, but they would have to be good ones. We know YouTube is adding a paid option to remove ads, but for a lot of similar reasons as above, I think this initiative will fail without features that can’t be replaced with a browser extension. If YouTube wants to beat Twitch, they have to actually look at what they’re doing and consider why it’s working… then do it better.