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Why gamers are worried that YouTube might buy Twitch

Will the online video giant ruin the gameplay streaming service?

Published: June 05, 2014 01:30 PM

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Video-game voyeurism has become a big business. Which is probably why YouTube (Google's online video platform) wants to buy the upstart videogame streaming service Twitch for a cool $1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. But some fans of the service think the potential acquisition may end up ruining the experience.

Twitch viewers and broadcasters say they fear that YouTube’s strict copyright infringement policy may end up forcing takedowns of videos that allegedly feature copyrighted music and in-game footage.

“YouTube’s enforcement of the DMCA, which is vociferous, is highly sympathetic towards the accuser,” said Richard Lewis, the editor-in-chief of Esports Heaven, a news site that covers the electronic sports industry. Lewis believes Twitch broadcasters might share the fate of many YouTube users who have had to go through a long and convoluted process of reinstating their channels after receiving erroneous or malicious reports—such as copyright infringement—missing out on revenue they depend on for their livelihood.

Of course, Twitch is subject to the same copyright laws that YouTube is, but Twitch's policy is to only look into streams at the behest of legal rightsholders, while YouTube automatically monitors content.

Twitch has seen its user base explode to 45 million unique monthly viewers in just three years, surpassing companies such as Hulu or Amazon as a source of Internet traffic during peak times. An acquisition of Twitch would effectively allow YouTube to monopolize the growing market of video games as a spectator sport.

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Others say they worry that viewers who interact with each other during streams via Twitch chat will be forced to use Google Plus, which became a requirement for YouTube commentors at the end of last year. Not everyone may want to use Google Plus, especially considering it's easier to be anonymous on Twitch chat.  

Although YouTube provides streaming services on its website, its ability to embed itself within the gaming community trails behind Twitch’s platform: YouTube doesn't support streaming on consoles, whereas Twitch has an app available on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Twitch also broadcasts electronic sports tournaments where hundreds of thousands of viewers tune in to players competing against each other for big cash prizes. YouTube already hosts channels from every major gaming company, so a successful deal would enable YouTube to complete its quest to be a one-stop content provider for gaming spectators.

Should the deal become official, a possible anti-trust challenge by the Department of Justice may be mounted, according to Variety magazine.

—Karim Lahlou   

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