Gaming is one of the most popular video categories on YouTube, which can make discovering certain games or creators slightly more difficult. YouTube is introducing a new, reformatted gaming hub to try alleviating those issues, with help from dedicated pages for specific games and and a gaming content creator on the rise.
This concept should sound familiar: It’s essentially YouTube’s stand-alone app dedicated to gaming content. Ryan Wyatt, head of YouTube Gaming, told Polygon that despite the company’s best efforts, the original Gaming app hindered visibility for many creators.
“The problem is, if you didn’t have the app, or you weren’t using the gaming hub to kind of like discover this content, creators weren’t as discoverable,” Wyatt told Polygon. “So many of these users are just using YouTube and the regular YouTube experience. You’d have some people that funneled through into the gaming app, or the gaming destination, but we were finding we still weren’t touching many people daily.”
The new YouTube gaming portal, which will integrate more clearly onto the main site, is built around discovering creators, according to Wyatt. The gaming hub will also resemble the standard homepage familiar to YouTube users. The original YouTube Gaming app will remain available during the transition, but it will officially shut down in March 2019.
Personalized recommendations based on people’s watch history will appear at the top of the page, along with “top live games and the latest gaming videos from your subscriptions,” according to a press release. YouTube’s new gaming hub will also include “dedicated shelves for live streams and trending videos.” The idea is to mirror YouTube’s main design in an effort to increase discoverability for creators and keep people watching. Up-and-coming creators will also earn a spot on YouTube’s Trending page, which the company has done in the past for musicians and animators.
YouTube’s new gaming hub seems eerily reminiscent of Twitch, and that’s not a coincidence. More than 200 million people watch gaming and gaming-related content on YouTube each day, according to a press release, with more than “50 billion hours of gaming content [watched] in the last 12 months alone.” Gaming is a big part of YouTube’s business. The challenge that Wyatt and his team faced is balancing livestream recommendations alongside standard video, which still make up 80 percent of YouTube’s gaming content.
“I think Twitch does a really good job with game discoverability,” Wyatt said. “You can go into Twitch, and you see these game pages, and you can kind of click on it and you see whoever biggest creator is streaming at that time. We’ve got VOD [video on demand] and Live now — we are big in both of those categories — so we needed to streamline this whole process so that you could watch it a little bit easier. For example, go click on Fortnite and actually have these different shelves; VOD, Live, different creators highlighted. It allows you to find content much easier than just going onto YouTube and just searching ‘Fortnite.’”
The relationship users have with Twitch and YouTube is often testy. Many creators have complained that YouTube penalizes them for posting videos that promote upcoming Twitch streams. YouTube states under its spam, deceptive practices and scam section of its community guidelines that “if the main purpose of your content is to drive people off of YouTube and onto another site, it will likely violate our spam policies.”
Some creators have called the penalization unfair. It’s a cultural issue. Creators like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins often like to stream on Twitch, where their paying subscribers are, and then upload edited supercuts to YouTube for people to watch after. Wyatt is aware of how people use Twitch and YouTube, he says. His hope is that people will see YouTube as more than just a place to upload gaming videos, but actually think of the site as a home for gaming content.
“If you look at the largest gaming creators outside of Ninja, they’re pretty much primarily on YouTube,” Wyatt said. “Markiplier and PewDiePie and these people in the 15-20 million subscriber range or more, they have such a big audience on YouTube that pretty much what they’re focused on. The cool thing about Ninja is he’s streaming on Twitch and he actually became one of the fastest growing creators in YouTube history, jumping from one million and 10 million all off of VOD and highlights. He’s kind of separating his business between the two. [...] There is obviously the opportunity for all livestreamers to think about not only YouTube as a place for VOD, but because the user base of gamers is significantly bigger on YouTube, you have to think of, what strategy you want to deploy as a gamer on Youtube?”
YouTube wants to be the sole destination for gaming content, but its creators are happily working with both platforms. It’s important to note that Markiplier has an exclusive deal with Twitch for streaming content, and PewDiePie is no longer solely a gaming creator. PewDiePie also began hosting a show on Twitch following his controversy on YouTube in February 2017.
Getting people to stay on YouTube means ensuring they’re happy. One of the other areas Wyatt and his team are trying to address are re-uploaded clips that profit off a creator or streamer’s success. These clips are often titled, “Ninja’s Best Kills,” and though the gaming community understands Fair Use laws that allow compilations to exist, they’re still struggling with direct re-uploads of original videos.
“That feedback is something that we’ve heard, and we definitely are thinking of ways to address it — and this is not just applicable to gaming,” Wyatt said. This is something that we see across the board. There are resources going into it and we have developed some tools. I don’t think we’ve done everything that we can do yet, but we certainly are focusing on it.”
A big portion of Wyatt’s plan is to focus on the community and its creators. Discoverability is one thing; promoting creators the community loves or creators who are starting to find their voice is another. Wyatt said that much like YouTube main’s artist on the rise, gaming creators will be discovered through a combination of human curation and the platform’s algorithm. There will also be an emphasis on promoting diverse creators.
The end goal is to bring more people to YouTube’s separate gaming hub, but also to remind everyone that gaming culture is inherently part of YouTube’s core. Creators won’t be sectioned off — like they were in the failed app.
YouTube Gaming’s new hub is live today.