Experts Say YouTube Isn’t Ready to Take On Twitch, Yet

It’s hard out there on a game streaming service

Key Takeaways

  • YouTube Gaming hit 100 billion hours watched this year.
  • Only 10 billion of those hours are made up by livestreams.
  • While worth celebrating, YouTube needs to do more if it truly wants to become a competitor for Twitch.
Sign with logos for Google and the Google owned video streaming service YouTube at the Googleplex.
Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

YouTube’s latest livestreaming stats stack up nicely against Twitch, but if the platform really wants to become a true competitor, it’s going to need to offer more than just celebrations and milestones.

A recent report from Ryan Wyatt, the head of global gaming at YouTube, revealed that the platform has seen over 100 billion hours of content watched in the gaming category during 2020, including 10 billion of livestream content.

With big streamers like Dr. Disrespect making the jump to YouTube full-time, it’s not unreasonable to think that YouTube Gaming could finally be getting its big break against streaming giant Twitch. According to experts, though, this growth is only temporary, and if YouTube Gaming wants to take over the streaming scene, or even act as a real competitor for Twitch, it’s going to need to offer its creators more than it already does.

"I believe the reason why YouTube Gaming seems to be on the rise this year is due to the pandemic," Oliver Baker, co-founder of mobile app developer Intelivita, wrote to Lifewire via email. "People have more time on their hands—people who grew up on YouTube. With less work to do and a feeling of nostalgia, many come back to YouTube for gaming content."

Breaking Down the Numbers

How exactly do YouTube’s latest numbers compare to Twitch's, though? Let’s take a deeper look.

YouTube was able to secure some big name streamers and partnerships with major publishers. They’ll need to continue that momentum into 2021...

"We now have over 40 million active gaming channels and, globally, there were over 100 billion hours of gaming content watched on YouTube," Wyatt wrote. "And live streaming on YouTube had an incredible year: We saw watch time from video game live streams grow to over 10 billion hours."

That last part is the important piece of information here. While the site itself is celebrating over 100 billion hours of gaming content watched, only 10 billion or so of those hours actually equates to livestreamed content. On the other hand, according to website, Twitch already has seen more than 13 billion hours watched. This means that between the two websites, Twitch only holds a 3 million hour lead. 

While that number might not seem that big, you have to consider a few things. First, the month isn’t over, so December’s numbers will still see quite a bit of growth in the coming days. When you consider that there are only about 500 hours left through the rest of December, you’d need almost 6,000 people to watch that many hours of YouTube livestreaming over the rest of the month to match what Twitch has managed to hit so far.

Not Quite a Comeback Just Yet

Even if YouTube can manage to continue its strong pursuit of Twitch’s hours watched, the platform will need to offer content creators a lot more if it wants to pull them in for good. Creators can monetize their content on YouTube, but Twitch makes it easier, offering lower guidelines that you have to meet to start making money off their content.

On top of this, Twitch’s more established community allows smaller creators to become noticed much easier, without having to fight for standing against YouTube’s bigger gaming video channels.

"Twitch is still at the top, but it is an encouraging year for YouTube Gaming," Bill Elafros, the co-founder of BEAT Esports, wrote in an email interview. "YouTube was able to secure some big name streamers and partnerships with major publishers. They’ll need to continue that momentum into 2021 and beyond to be able to take on Twitch."

Ninja (Tyler Blevins), streaming on Twitch

Keeping that momentum won’t be easy, as Twitch has continued to build its community, signing both Ninja and Shroud to exclusive contracts earlier in the year after Mixer went under. With two powerhouse names like that leading the forefront, Twitch won’t go down without a fight, something about which both Baker and Elafros can agree.

2020 was a good year for YouTube. There’s no arguing that. If YouTube really wants to take on Twitch, it’s going to need to do more than just hit milestones like this, though. YouTube failed to pull in big names like Shroud and Ninja while they were on the market, and only managed to grab Dr. Disrespect following some controversy that left him banned on Twitch.

If YouTube really wants to be a competitor for Twitch, then it’s going to need to up its game and bring in more of those heavy hitters, while also making it easier for streamers to monetize their content and get discovered.

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