What's Going To Come Of YouTube's One Billion Dollar Purchase Of Twitch?
I'm not going to lie. When I heard that YouTube was purchasing Twitch.tv to the tune of $1 billion dollars, my heart sank a little. I prayed that it was just an unfounded rumor. Unfortunately, it isn't - and the buyout is most definitely happening.
A lot of people are looking at the acquisition as a blessing - as a sign of just how far video games have come since their inception. After all, most of us can still remember the days when gaming was a hobby for antisocial, unpopular teens; basement-dwellers on the fringes of society who were too odd to have any real friends. Now, though? It's been thrust into the public eye. Almost everyone in the western world has played at least one game, whether it's Angry Birds on their phone or Dragon Age on their PC.
Not only that, professional gaming has evolved from a hobby to a legitimate profession in which competitors - so long as they're skilled enough - can easily bring in six-figure incomes. Video game streaming is one of the biggest, most booming businesses in the world of video games - so in hindsight, it's not all that surprising that YouTube wants a piece of the pie.
So at this point, some of you are probably asking why this buyout makes me feel so concerned. After all, isn't YouTube basically admitting that video games have come into their own? By buying Twitch, aren't the people at Google acknowledging that gaming is no longer the sort of hobby one should be ashamed of?
Yeah. In a way, they are. I'm just worried that, in the process of giving games streaming a vigorous bear hug, they might end up destroying it.
I'm not the only one side-eyeing the deal, either. The simple fact is, Twitch is the closest thing to a competitor Youtube's had in well over a decade. This purchase might well give Google the next best thing to a monopoly over the online video market.
"There is a sense of YouTube buying the competition here," explained IHS analyst Doug Cryan. "If you look at where Twitch is on the growth curve, it feels broadly similar to where YouTube was when Google bought it in the first place."
My issue with the buyout is that it might open the door to YouTube's god-awful ContentID system - which I still maintain is quite possibly the worst copyright protection tool ever made. It's a "guilty until proven innocent" mechanism, one which is all too easily abused for the purposes of censorship or to siphon ad revenue. Worse, there are plenty of organizations that basically have free reign of ContentID; these groups can have a video they find offensive immediately removed - and it's up to the uploader to get it posted again. Given how takedown-happy some video game studios (I'm looking at you, Sega and Nintendo) happen to be, well...
If YouTube introduces ContentID to Twitch, it could very well kill streaming as we know it (especially if they make the idiotic move of forcing Google Plus integration).
Okay. Let's look at what good can come of this. Twitch gets a nice hardware upgrade, and runs off Google's servers - meaning it rarely, if ever, ends up crashing. On the other end of the spectrum, YouTube makes use of Twitch's streaming technology to vastly improve its video buffering system, making videos both quicker to load and more lightweight.
Both are significant advantages...but on their own, are they really worth the potential cost?
The deal isn't finalized just yet, and I'm still desperately hoping this whole thing is just a rumor (and if it's not, that someone steps in to prevent it from happening). Maybe I'm wrong, and nothing bad will come of it. But given what I've seen in the past...I really don't believe so.