Google—or more specifically YouTube— is supposedly looking to snatch up popular streaming service Twitch for $1 billion.
While it’s still up in the air how far along these talks are, if the previous history of major money acquisitions are any indication, they’re pretty far along. According to Variety, Twitch selected to run with Google over several other companies including Microsoft.
Formed by parent company Twitch Interactive (formerly Justin.tv) in the summer of 2011, Twitch allows for gamers to live stream gameplay and for around 45 million others to view and comment. Shortly afterwards it became a leader in the “Let’s Play” scene while focusing heavily on a community environment.
The deal would be a good one for YouTube—at least better than say Yahoo and Tumblr or Apple and Beats—in that there’s very little question about what can be done with Twitch. While Tumblr has a big base, some actual brainstorming would be required to find a way to make money with a service with no visible money making potential. In Twitch’s case, that very same strong community element produced a number of popular broadcasters depending on the game.
These upper tier, professional broadcasters manage to hundreds of viewers, thousands of views (again depending on the game), and a large number of dedicated subscribers and viewers. Even the hobby broadcasters can pull in the tens and hundreds, but it’s the pro broadcasters who have the pool of viewers that Twitch can run ads to.
Twitch also has the allure of being a hot platform for eSports not to mention that it recently made the jump to next generation with apps on PS4 and Xbox One.
YouTube has made steps to reel in gamers and Let’s Plays have become a very popular subgenre of gaming on the streaming site and have seen broadcaster and broadcaster groups explode. Stars like PewDiePie have managed to reel in almost millions of views and over 26 million subscribers. It’s because of the nature YouTube’s Let’s Play scene—heavily leaning towards video than live—that has made it a target to copyright and pulled content.
So what can YouTube do with Twitch exactly? It could be gaming exclusive wing of YouTube (in the same sense that YouTube is the video streaming wing of Google) and make give YouTube’s Let’s Play scene a place to thrive and possibly get some of the Twitch community. This means getting those members who aren’t involved in both.
It’s also important that YouTube doesn’t ruin Twitch. Most companies that buy smaller, popular services say that they will approach things with a “hands off” approach and allow for the service to operate as it always has. It’s a good practice, but it’s never long before influence seeps in and it becomes something that isn’t recognizable to what it once was and the original users either adapt or move on.
In Google’s case, it’s best not to try to shoehorn Google+ in there. Gamers adapt to change well, but if something has been working for years—Twitch’s live chat system, the category system, etc.—it’s best not to make huge sweeping changes.
Google will probably allow for Twitch to be most independent if they manage to get the streaming service. It works better from a layout and user standpoint than the cauldron of everything that is YouTube. It’s specific and all you need to do is pick the game and find a broadcaster to view. At the most extreme however is Google handling Twitch like it handled Meebo (it was ended and the team integrated into Google+) and integrating it into YouTube as a brand. Google might even bring back Meebo and put it back at the bottom of Twitch. When used in tandem, it allowed for users to communicate live across the streaming platforms of Twitch and sister service Justin.tv if they were in different streams.
What is known is that there is definite advertising potential with Twitch. The Twitch community tends to be a very savvy and will use ad blockers, but for those dedicated viewers and subscribers there’s potential to get money out of Twitch. All it takes is not alienating that viewer base.