YouTube Gaming vs. Twitch: A Comprehensive Rundown

YouTube is continuing on its mission to steadily decrease the size of Twitch’s platform, introducing its YouTube Gaming app that serves as a central hub for any and all gaming-related video uploaded and broadcast onto the site. 

With the main YouTube site already hosting this content, some are left wondering exactly what YouTube Gaming brings to the table and how it could potentially damage Twitch’s analytics in the long-run. While some aspects of the app are still in beta, it’s already robust enough at these early stages in its life cycle to get a feel of exactly how it could potentially affect Twitch, and how it compares to its live streaming competitor.

Let’s take a look at how YouTube Gaming and Twitch stack up against one another:



YouTube is making a big push to compete with Twitch in terms of live streaming, and this is apparent in YouTube Gaming’s attempts to make its broadcasting service a more prominent feature of the site. Whereas live streams are tucked away in YouTube’s user interface, in YouTube Gaming they are given pride of place on the home page, along with being prominently featured when you search for videos of a certain game. 

As highlighted in the above image, clicking on Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 under the ‘Trending Games’ tab brings up a selection of live streams, Let’s Plays and other pre-recorded videos, with YouTube Gaming essentially serving as a way to easily navigate through YouTube’s plethora of gaming videos without getting lost in its shambolic user interface. It’s a little more confusing than the more focused Twitch, then, but it at least ensures that there’s plenty to watch on the app in these early stages of its launch.

Meanwhile, Twitch focuses solely upon live streams, which may stand to keep it as the most popular platform for broadcasters and eSports given that its site is specifically tailored to them. Right now YouTube Gaming’s viewing figures pale in comparison to those of Twitch, with there still being many who are unaware that YouTube even hosts live streams, let alone now has an app dedicated to advertising that fact. As such YouTube is a glorious mess with a variety of Let’s Plays, live streams, interviews, gaming-related shows, comedy sketches and more, but it still has a long way to go before it’s seen in the same light as Twitch when it comes to live broadcasts.


Live Streaming

The biggest question in regards to the differences between YouTube Gaming and Twitch is how they compare with one another when it comes to hosting live streamed video content. Surprisingly, in many ways YouTube Gaming actually usurps its more experienced rival, with one big advantage it has over Twitch is granting users the ability to rewind live broadcasts, similar to TiVo. This means that you could miss the start of a big eSports tournament, but then simply rewind to the beginning and watch it. This is a big deal considering Twitch doesn’t accommodate for viewers’ schedules, instead simply expecting them to be there at the beginning of a live stream if they want to watch it from the start.

However, YouTube Gaming suffers one big problem at this point in time – namely that few people are watching its live broadcasts. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is the top trending game listed on the app, yet its most viewed stream only had 17 viewers. To top it all off, that stream didn’t even feature any footage of the horror game, with it instead devoted to a guy with a beard watching Black Sabbath videos on YouTube while a bemused chat questioned what on Earth was going on. With YouTube Gaming having just launched, the most amount of views I could find for a single broadcast were a couple of hundred, and when you consider that when YouTube has livestreamed major eSports events alongside Twitch but has only managed to garner a couple of hundred thousand viewers as opposed to Twitch’s millions, they most certainly are fighting an uphill battle.

Viewership is everything when it comes to these platforms, as less viewers means less people willing to broadcast. With the big guns therefore likely to stay at Twitch for the foreseeable future until YouTube begins bringing in some more views, YouTube is going to need to remain persistent if they wish to court a wider audience that can eventually compare with their already established competitors.


User Interface

Diving into both Twitch and YouTube Gaming for the first time are hardly the easiest of experiences. While Twitch has a more minimalist approach to its content, with a simple banner across the top of the site directing you to its most viewed streams and then a ‘Featured Games’ column along the bottom showing you the most popular games played by its streamers, YouTube Gaming throws a bunch of information at you from the outset. There are two columns framing the app, with the left-hand column directing you to its trending games, while the right-hand column highlights featured channels. From these columns you can also go to your personal channel, along with allowing you to bookmark certain games for later viewing. 

With so many videos available to view, YouTube Gaming actually does a good job of placing them all at your finger tips, even if it does look a little daunting initially. While those who want to go to specific channels will still be using the search bar more frequently than they acknowledge YouTube’s own suggestions, there are at least a wide variety of videos to choose from if you decide to take YouTube’s advice and check out its recommended offerings on its front page and on the page of each individual game. 

Selecting a video also brings it up in a large screen with the video’s details, with a chat box appearing on the right-hand side for live streams. Unfortunately, the chat in YouTube Gaming is far worse than Twitch chat. You may have noticed the video titled ‘Real n**** playing GTA Modded Lobby!’ in the above screenshot, and yes, that had inexplicably made its way to YouTube Gaming’s home page – but the chat was far worse than the content of that live broadcast itself, with anonymous commenters hurling racist abuse at the stream’s host. With YouTube’s notorious comments section consisting mainly of the worst kind of people, it seems like this will carry over into its YouTube Gaming chat boxes, which means that if the platform tried to host a “YouTube Gaming Plays Pokemon Session” it’d likely devolve into nothing more than people typing bigoted slurs at one another.



Streaming Tools

YouTube Gaming excels in its ease-of-use when it comes to live streaming, with it offering a wide range of tools for broadcasters that are impressive given YouTube’s relatively recent foray into the medium. It offers comprehensive analytics that allows users to see not only the amount of views they receive, but also the average view duration, viewers’ engagement with their videos, the demographics of their viewers and where their views are coming from, be it YouTube itself or other websites. 

Not only that, but YouTube offers a smoother streaming experience by transcoding 60fps streams into 720p60 and 1080p60. On a personal note, I also found the framerate of my stream to be more consistent than what I experience on Twitch, something which won’t be too much of a problem for dedicated streamers with setups dedicated to broadcasting gameplay footage, but for those just starting out it certainly makes for a more accommodating experience.

Unfortunately, there is one potentially irritating flaw that has made its way from YouTube to YouTube Gaming, and that is its infuriating relationship with copyright holders. YouTube is notorious for pulling videos at a whim when copyright strikes are made, even if these strikes are not lawful, and YouTube has made it clear that it has put a Content ID system in place with its live streaming services that will mean that if you’re accused of broadcasting anything that falls outside of the site’s strict guidelines, your broadcast may be taken down effective immediately. This means that in the middle of a broadcast, livestreamers may see their stream being pulled until they resolve the issue – there have yet to be any reports on how effective the process is in putting these streams back online, but given how many YouTube videos have been unfairly pulled from the platform due to wrongful copyright strikes, and how difficult it is to get in contact with YouTube directly in order to dispute these claims, this could prove to be a big issue in the future.



YouTube Gaming is off to a strong start and, once you get over its odd UI, there’s plenty for live streamers, video creators and viewers alike to sink their teeth into. It isn’t an example of YouTube trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather of them making a destination in which those who specifically want to view the site’s gaming content can access it with ease. It’s got a long way to go before it can compete with Twitch in the live streaming stakes, but it’s off to a healthy start and is already doing a few things better than its rival. If nothing else, it should at least inspire Twitch to step up its game, creating a more competitive environment that will likely prove to be beneficial for all involved.