Streaming wars: Is YouTube Gaming the next big thing for esports?

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When it comes to streaming, whether it be watching a former pro play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or checking out the latest live League of Legends match, there’s only been one platform that really comes to mind: Twitch.

In 2021, viewers consumed 22.8 billion hours on Twitch, a 22% increase from 2020. The streaming platform has seemed like it’s never slowing down, with huge names in the competitive gaming world boasting daily streams and large esports franchises broadcasting the entirety of their tournaments on Twitch.

But there may be a shift happening — and it’s worth taking note of.

Some of the biggest streamers leave for YouTube Gaming

While Twitch is home to Imane “Pokimane” Anys, Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa, Asmongold, Michael “shroud” Grzesiek Felix “xQc” Lengyel, and more, Twitch has actually been bleeding some major names for years now.

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins may be back on Twitch for now, but the Fortnite superstar notoriously left Twitch in 2019. Ninja explained at the time that he was sick of Twitch’s grueling schedule and that his mental health was deteriorating as he continued to interact with people on the site constantly.

While rival platform Mixer ended up failing miserably, the sentiment has continued. Ninja paved the way for other streamers to leave the comfort of Twitch to chase lucrative contracts elsewhere — usually YouTube Gaming — in an attempt to escape Twitch’s strict regulations and reliance on consistently streaming.

Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter left Twitch for YouTube in 2019, leaving behind a tremendously large following. But she has never expressed regret. In fact, she has continued to praise YouTube for caring about its creators and continuing to implement new features.

Herschel “Dr Disrespect” Beahm IV joined YouTube in 2020 — although it wasn’t by choice. After his prominent permanent ban on Twitch with no public explanation, the Doc switched to YouTube, bringing in a lot of battle royale fans.

Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar, and Sykkuno are other big names who have been on YouTube. Ludwig surprised the entire streaming community when he switched to YouTube Gaming after becoming the most-subscribed streamer on Twitch. It seemed as though whatever YouTube was offering streamers was worth leaving behind all of the subscribers and millions of followers.

Despite the continued switch to YouTube, most big content creators on the competing platform have admitted that they have less viewership than they did on Twitch. Yet they don’t seem too concerned.

Esports franchises sign exclusive deal with YouTube Gaming

It’s not only casual gamers that have decided to take the plunge. Activision Blizzard made the news in 2020 when it decided to exclusively stream Call of Duty League and Overwatch League matches on YouTube Gaming.

This decision ended up being one of the first major cracks in the Overwatch League’s rapid decay. Viewership dropped immensely to the point where Product Lead Jon Spector had to address the very concerning numbers.

“We are not satisfied with where things are today,” Spector said. “So, we are working with YouTube to improve discoverability of our content while looking at other changes to build excitement and raise the stakes.”

While the OWL claimed to switch to YouTube due to the VOD capabilities of the platform, that wasn’t enough to get Overwatch fans to make the switch from Twitch. The lack of drops, tokens, and other rewards for viewing is one big reason.

Despite the low viewership compared to Twitch, streamers and esports franchises continue to sign exclusive deals with YouTube Gaming. As the platform continues to make improvements to its features in an attempt to rival Twitch, it’s probably important to keep an eye on YouTube Gaming as the possible future home of other esports tournaments. These big-name streamers are paving the way, able to risk more in this gamble. Their presence on the platform has forced YouTube to move faster and improve rapidly.

With Twitch continuing to be under fire for its strict regulations and inconsistent punishments, it’s most definitely a possibility that YouTube Gaming will quickly become a threat.

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