The desire to share that sort of powerful experience is at the root of the exponential growth in live game streaming over the past few years. Everything from recreational play to professional e-sports tournaments are now being broadcast live over the internet, with last year’s League of Legends season three final attracting 32 million viewers 8.5 million of whom were watching simultaneously. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of New York City glued to a stream of mythological team-based warfare.
Twitch, the online video service that Google looks poised to acquire for 1 billion is where this entire game-streaming revolution is happening. In buying Twitch, Google wouldn’t be getting a segment of the e-sports streaming market, it’d be getting all of it. Every big e-sports competition is streamed on Twitch. The company is now the official streaming partner for the E3 gaming expo, and recently Xbox One gamers joined their PS4 and PC brethren in being able to stream their exploits to its service.
Twitch got its start as a subset of video sharing site Justin.tv, but in 2011 was spun off on its own because it was quickly outgrowing its parent website. The subsequent years have only seen that growth accelerate: the 3.2 million unique monthly users at the start of Twitch.tv turned to 20 million in 2012 and 45 million last year. With 6 million broadcasts and over 12 billion minutes watched every month, Twitch admits that it’s gotten to the point where it “can’t keep up with the growth.” Marketing VP Matt DiPietro describes this as “a good problem to have,” but it’s still a problem. The most serious competitor to Twitch, own3d.tv, collapsed under the pressure of extraordinary demand from gamers, so Google’s intervention will be necessary for the game streaming service to continue to flourish. Plus it stands to help remedy a couple of longstanding issues for the Mountain View company as well.
YouTube is the undisputed champion of user-generated online video. Its 6 billion hours of monthly video consumption is 30 times greater than the amount Twitch is struggling to cope with. But the vast majority of that time is spent watching pre-recorded video. Google’s efforts at turning YouTube into a live-streaming destination have been fruitless so far, highlighted by the universally maligned YouTube Music Awards. Google and YouTube just aren’t cool in the eyes of the live-streaming community. They’re not the place where famed gamers stream their matches and build their reputations. Twitch is.
Mike has a strong fascination for all things business. He currently studies at the NYU Stern School of Business and is intrigued by Economics, Marketing, and Trading.