YouTube Gaming, Google's new gaming-focused destination, has officially launched today. Users can browse the official site or pick up the app from the App Store or Google Play Store. YouTube Gaming is essentially a focused frontend for YouTube, collecting all gaming content in a single place. Viewers also get personalized gaming recommendations, notifications about streams, and over 25,000 generated game pages for some of your favorite titles.
When I took a look at YouTube Gaming for myself, the game pages seemed to be the more useful feature of the site, aggregating not only the best videos related to a certain title, but also official video content from the publisher. When I look for a trailer for say, Hearthstone, I want Blizzard's version, not a reupload from someone else or a reaction video. YouTube Gaming takes that into account and prioritizes the content that you're (theoretically) looking for.
"For a lot of games, especially popular games, we know who the publisher is. In this case, we know the publisher is Blizzard," YouTube Gaming engineering manager Frank Petterson explains to me. "We have this tab on the page for Blizzard and we're pulling in content from their official channel. Since it comes from the publisher, it's high-quality content, so it's worth featuring in this view."
YouTube Gaming also pulls popular uploads related to a title into its main tab. The most popular streams, Let's Plays, and Guides for Guild Wars 2 will find themselves front and center on the Guild Wars 2 YouTube Gaming page. The idea is if you love a game - and you can tag your favorite titles on the site - you have a one stop shop for video content related to that game. YouTube Gaming flags videos based on titles and flags, and content creators can set up shelves for specific games on their personal channel.
"Having that really explicit, 'This is the game we're playing' in the title, description, or tags helps," said Petterson. "Whenever you can be more clear about what game you're playing, the more we're going to pick up on it." "The one thing to be aware of is we only ever pick one game," he continued. "It might be tempting to say, "Oh yeah, I played 25 games in this video!' You can claim that, but we're only going to take the one that we're most confident about. Let's say you play Legend of Zelda and two other games in a video, but in the title you put the words 'Legend of Zelda' and in the comments all people are talking about is Zelda. We'll look at stuff like that and that gives us the signal that this video is mostly about the Legend of Zelda. We'll make that association."
These curated pages aren't maintained like a Wiki though. They're auto-generated, meaning you may end up with titles pulling from the wrong channels or with poor cover art. Publishers and users will have to help YouTube by notifying them if something seems off on a certain title's page.
"If there are problems, users can report directly to us by flagging anything on these pages," said Petterson. "We have direct contact with publishers, so they can also reach out and let us know if something's off."
YouTube is also hoping that YouTube Gaming becomes the new streaming platform of choice for gamers. Over the course of this year, YouTube has beefed up its streaming platform with HTML5 playback, 60 fps live streaming, DVR-style pause/rewind/fast-forward, and the ability to auto-convert any stream into a YouTube video.
That said, YouTube still has a ways to go to before it catches up to Twitch, who has spent the past few years building a solid game-streaming community. For YouTube, this is uphill battle in a few ways. The first is that Twitch has comprehensive relationships with developers of all sizes, while YouTube is starting from ground zero. TinyBuild's Mike Rose explained on Twitter that the indie publisher hasn't had much contact with YouTube Gaming at all.
Twitch has had many years to sharpen up and get smart. YouTube has a hell of a lot to learn about streaming before it's even nearly equal— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 26, 2015
We've tried to get involved with YouTube Gaming, and they just seem to have no concrete direction right now other than "be Twitch"— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 26, 2015
Having seen plenty of Twitch behind the scenes, and what a well oiled machine it is, it'll be a while before YouTube catches up— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 26, 2015
Twitch are constantly coming to smaller devs and asking opinions, what we want etc. YouTube has been a brick wall up to this point— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 26, 2015
YouTube Gaming as a streaming platform also retains an issue that currently plagues certain YouTube creators: the Content ID system. Google has confirmed to site like the BBC that Content ID will be active on livestreams, warning creators if they're streaming copyrighted third-party content, like music. On YouTube, the automated Content ID system is prone to false-positives and publishers attempting to remove content they disagree with via DMCA takedowns. Many are worried those issues will extend to YouTube Gaming, which marks a huge stumbling block for its adoption as a streaming platform.
For now though, YouTube Gaming is out there for the masses, who will bend and break the service to find out where it excels and where it fails. YouTube wants to be the next Twitch, but first it has to determine where YouTube Gaming is going to shine on its own. We here at USgamer will probably mess around with the platform for some of our own streams, in addition to our continuing video content. In fact, you can find our official YouTube Gaming page right here if you're interested.