Twitch vs. YouTube: Behind YouTube's Plan To Win Over Twitch Influencers

Twitch vs YouTube gaming live streaming
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What To Know About The Ongoing Battle Between Twitch vs YouTube

YouTube rules online video in all areas but one: video game livestreaming. Its central competitor is Twitch, a livestreaming platform launched in 2011 and used predominantly for gaming. As of 2018, Twitch garners 10 million DAUs, with roughly half of its users spending 20 plus hours a week on the platform.

Twitch offers an incredibly powerful means to reach gaming enthusiasts whose purchases fuel the lucrative gaming industry. The world’s 2.2 billion gamers spent $109 billion on gaming last year. In the U.S. alone, the industry generates more than $30.4 billion in yearly revenue.

In an effort to earn a piece of the gaming market, YouTube has launched and bolstered two features to compete with Twitch: YouTube Live and YouTube Gaming. YouTube’s recent developments raise the ultimate question: who will win, YouTube or Twitch?

Here we’ll break down the competitive history between Twitch and YouTube, examine recent developments on both platforms, and discuss YouTube’s plan to win over Twitch influencers.

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Twitch vs YouTube: A Brief History

The relationship between Twitch and YouTube has been one of exchanging punches. Over the years, each has added influencer tools in an effort to sway gaming influencers, and their followings, to pick a platform. 

April 2011: YouTube launches YouTube Live, a feature accessible on YouTube that hosts livestream videos. Users can navigate to a YouTube Live browse page that exclusively contains live videos. Eligible channels can earn a share of ad revenue through YouTube’s AdSense program.


June 2011: Just two months after the launch of YouTube Live, Twitch is born. The livestreaming platform quickly becomes a destination for gamers. Users watch gaming livestreams in the “let’s play” format, view live gaming tournaments and tune in to gaming-focused talk shows. Twitch arrives when Facebook and Twitter are still young social networks and contributes heavily to the rise of livestreaming.


July 2011: Just a month after its inception Twitch introduces its Partner Program, a monetization feature for influencers. The feature allows enrolled influencers to earn a share of the ad revenue generated from their Twitch broadcasts. Influencers are also eligible to earn a monetary share when a user subscribes to their channel. As of 2017, the program has more than 17,000 partners.


August 2015: Four years after the arrival of Twitch, YouTube launches YouTube Gaming, a website and app dedicated to gaming videos and gaming livestreams. Unlike Twitch, which hosts livestreams of all types, YouTube Gaming is exclusive to the gaming niche. Similar to Twitch, YouTube Gaming influencers can earn ad revenue from pre-roll ads displayed before or during their livestreams.


January 2017: Roughly a year and a half after launching YouTube Gaming, YouTube adds Super Chats to both YouTube Gaming and YouTube Live. The feature allows influencers to monetize their livestreams in the form of purchased messages. Livestream viewers can purchase messages that prominently appear in a livestream chat and are more likely to be seen by an influencer.

September 2017: YouTube Gaming launches its gaming sponsorship program, a third monetization tool in addition to pre-roll ads and Super Chats. The feature allows fans to sponsor influencers by paying $5 a month in exchange for special features, like access to sponsor-only live chats and channel-specific emojis. The tool gives influencers another means to make money directly through the platform.


October 2017: Just a month later, Twitch introduces a new influencer monetization feature in addition to the ad revenue share and subscription revenue influencers can earn through its Partner Program. The feature gives viewers the ability to buy video games directly through the platform. Games for purchase appear on the channels of influencer partners and affiliates who earn a share of revenue.

February 2018: YouTube Live adds a plethora of new features, including a chat replay for livestreams after they’ve appeared, automatic English captions for livestreams, and livestream location tags. The features allow an influencer to cater his/her livestream to a global viewership by offering a highly-realistic delayed livestream experience and removing the language barrier deterring users from viewing foreign livestreams.


Facts & Figures: Where Do Twitch & YouTube Stand Today?

As the timeline suggests, Twitch and YouTube are both aiming to win business by introducing tools that help influencers (1) monetize their livestreaming content and (2) grow their livestreaming audiences.

Q4 2017 results indicate that Twitch is still beating YouTube Gaming in terms of user activity. However, YouTube Gaming is growing faster than Twitch.

A report conducted by livestreaming tool Streamlabs found that Twitch’s monthly active streamers grew by 197% in 2017, compared to YouTube Gaming’s growth of 343%. During Q4 2017, Twitch garnered 27,000 concurrent streamers, meaning 27,000 people were streaming live videos on the platform simultaneously.

In contrast, YouTube Gaming boasted only 7,000 concurrent streamers during the last quarter of the year. Similarly, 788,000 people watched live videos at the same time on Twitch during Q4 2017, up from 736,700 in the previous quarter. Conversely, YouTube Gaming was far behind with 308,000 people watching live videos at the same time during Q4 2017.

What Does Twitch vs. YouTube Mean For The Influencer Industry?

One could argue that in regards to influencer monetization tools, YouTube has been playing catch-up with Twitch since the beginning. YouTube took longer to provide influencers with monetization tools beyond a share of ad revenue. Twitch has been more innovative in offering influencers monetization tools on its platform, like direct video game purchases. Nevertheless, YouTube Gaming’s Q4 2017 growth suggests that its influencer monetization tools are making an impact.

More importantly, the success of one livestreaming platform doesn’t mean the death of another. The growth of Twitch and YouTube livestreaming speaks to the evolution of influencer marketing at large.

Users, especially Millennials and Gen Z, prefer influencers over traditional celebrities due to their relatability. Influencer marketing succeeds because product recommendations are presented as coming from a friend. Livestreaming may hone in on the authenticity audiences crave even more than sponsored posts because content is live – not created and edited beforehand.

If YouTube and Twitch’s growth is any indication, livestreaming sponsorships could become more compelling than traditional sponsored content in the coming years.

Which Do Top Influencers prefer: Twitch or YouTube Gaming?

Currently, few top influencers are leaving Twitch for YouTube Gaming or vice versa. However, that may change. Popular YouTuber Logan Paul did just announce a new gaming venture on Twitch, not YouTube. In less than 24 hours, his new Twitch account LoganPaulWasTaken amassed more than 190,000 followers.

On the other hand, top YouTube gamer Mark Fischbach (@Markiplier) just signed a multiyear deal to create content exclusively for Twitch. Fischbach maintains only 706,657 Twitch followers, which pales in comparison to his 19.8 million subscribers on YouTube Gaming. Likely, a clear commitment to YouTube Gaming or Twitch among top influencers may just be beginning to form.

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