Poker live streamers now have a new option to broadcast their gameplay worldwide: YouTube Gaming. The service, which launched to the public Wednesday, will compete directly with live streaming powerhouse Twitch, which is owned by Amazon. The launch comes nearly one year to the day since Amazon acquired Twitch for $970 million after YouTube’s parent company Google pulled out of the bidding process.
So how is the new live streaming service? In short, it’s incomplete with no poker live streaming category — yet the platform undoubtedly has the potential to rival and even surpass Twitch over the next 12 months.
YouTube Gaming User Interface
For those who have already visited the new live streaming platform, there are two things that stick out immediately. The site is SLOW and comes off as being “bogged down” by the pre-recorded video options, which at launch occupy the vast majority of thumbnail options.
The display in itself is attractive if you’re a fan of dark backgrounds, and boasts plenty of one-touch options for mobile device users, but the thumbnails themselves seem to slow down all URL redirects as well as the pop-up menus.
No Love For Poker Live Streaming?
There is no dedicated poker category to speak of at YouTube Gaming, and a generic search for the term “poker” prominently lists Zynga Poker as number one, with no mention of online poker giant PokerStars, PokerStarsTV, or the European Poker Tour. EPT live casts are not native to the YouTube realm, yet they are routinely exported there.
A closer look at search results reveals that the World Series of Poker channel (which is linked to the 2005 Activision video game rather than the actual tournament series) comes in at a paltry sixth. In all fairness, a ton of people probably still play that title on their original XBOX and PlayStation 2 consoles… /sarcasm.
YouTube Gaming has plenty of poker videos available for viewing, but nothing that isn’t already accessible directly on its sister site. By comparison, Twitch offers a dedicated poker category (which consistently ranks in the Top 20 among all video games) and recently inked poker live streaming superstar Jason Somerville to a two-year deal. It’s no secret among industry insiders that Twitch has actively pursued poker as a “game” for live casting.
YouTube Gaming at Launch: Yawn-fest for Poker Live Streamers
There’s really nothing YouTube Gaming offers to poker live streamers at launch that they can’t already obtain from a cultivated Twitch audience. With searches going to a mish-mash of previously recorded videos, the search function needs to be streamlined even for the video game segment.
The one live streaming advantage that YouTube Gaming clearly holds over Twitch is that no external software (such as OBS) is required in order to go live. YouTube accounts in good standing can begin casting immediately after mobile phone verification (similar to Google Hangouts)
This feature in itself is likely to attract a lot of new poker streamers who are intimidated by the process of downloading and altering third-party software settings before being able to go live. However, existing poker streamers are unlikely to flock to YouTube Gaming until poker searches for live streams are cleaned up for viewers.
YouTube Partner Program: Half of Nothing Still Equals Nothing
For poker live streamers thinking about monetizing their YouTube channel via the YouTube Partner Program, the prospects are equally as woeful as they are for Twitch. You’ll have to attract thousands of concurrent viewers throughout hours of daily programming to monetize your channel for any meaningful amount.
Although both YouTube Gaming and Twitch offer entrepreneurial packages to live streamers, only one poker caster (Somerville) does extremely well by most people’s standards, with a few others drawing decent revenue that could be considered a modest full time living. For all other poker streamers — even those who get hundreds of viewers at a time — it’s closer to a volunteer gig due to the near 50/50 subscriber revenue split and painfully low rates paid to streamers for ad revenue.
Under its current format, poker live streaming as a viable profession for the dozens of middle-of-the-road casters would require a surge in the game’s popularity equal to that of triple “A” video games.
YouTube Gaming’s Content ID System
Speaking of your average poker live caster, many who stream live on Twitch frequently supplement tournament breaks (or even actual play) with copyrighted music. Twitch will often mute segments once they are archived as Videos On Demand(VODs), but there are no other repercussions and the actual live stream is unaffected.
FAIR WARNING: This will not be the case for live streamers on YouTube Gaming. Any use of copyrighted music will likely result in your entire YouTube account being flagged, suspended and ultimately shut down if you continue to air music you don’t own the rights to. This includes songs you have already purchased from iTunes or downloaded from services such as Spotify.
This won’t be that big of a deal for those who aren’t looking to monetize their YouTube Gaming channel. However, any “YouTube Partner” video game reviewer who’s had his/her channel flagged can tell you that the experience is just as intimidating as a Black Friday DOJ message plastered across your favorite poker site’s dot-com domain.
Incomplete Launch with Massive Potential
Despite its initial flaws, there’s no denying that YouTube Gaming has stellar potential. Drawing on the world’s second most popular search engine (with parent company Google being the largest), you can already see sponsorship deals lining up in time for the video game industry’s annual trade show which will be held next June at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
You can bet your Gwent deck there will be some serious bidding going on between now and then as to which service — YouTube Gaming or Twitch — gets to be the “exclusive” live streaming sponsor at E3 2016 eleven months from now.
As for poker live streamers, YouTube Gaming at launch leaves much to be desired. My suggestion would be to take a “wait and see” approach if you’re currently casting via Twitch. The time to jump ship has yet to arrive, but circumstances could change in upcoming months.
YouTube Gaming Launch Review Score: 5/10
*This review relates to YouTube Gaming for poker live streamers, not those who cast video game content.