When you think of watching Esports online, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For a vast number of users on the internet, the name “Twitch” is the immediate answer. Twitch.tv has been the go-to platform for streaming individual, amateur, and competitive Esports play for more than a decade now. Yet as a relative newcomer in the world of streaming video compared to a titan of the industry such as YouTube, how could Twitch establish and entrench itself so thoroughly into this space?
From its humble beginnings to its status today as the most popular streaming platform, with hundreds of millions of users active every day, Twitch has an impressive story. Its status as a fixture in the world of Esports speaks to its overall success. So how did we get to this point?
A Humble Beginning as Justin.tv
Originally, Twitch was a sub-channel on a much larger website called Justin.tv. One of the first major platforms to offer live streaming video rather than static uploaded content, Justin.tv filled a niche that no one else had quite managed to perfect yet. The popularity of the gaming section, called Twitch, grew rapidly over the years following the site’s launch. Eventually, Twitch was far and away the biggest part of the entire Justin.tv organisation. In 2011, it was broken off as a separate company — and not long after, the rest of Justin.tv shut down so the company could focus on growing Twitch.
Attracting everything from people streaming their daily lives to people playing games in marathon sessions, Twitch boasted superior technology that put them ahead of the competition. They also had another thing going: the gravitation of major players in Esports games such as League of Legends to the platform. Soon, that popularity would blossom into financial opportunity.
Early Esports Deals Put Twitch at #1
In 2012, not long after Twitch became independent, it landed the deal that perhaps put it on the path to long-term dominance in the streaming industry. That year, Riot Games awarded Twitch a contract to become the official viewing platform for the League of Legends World Championship, better known as the Worlds. A decade later, Twitch still broadcasts Worlds games and attracts hundreds of thousands of active viewers for the most high-profile matches. The long-term success of Worlds on the Twitch platform immediately made it attractive to other developers pushing Esports titles and laid the groundwork for future deals as well.
Community Engagement & Better Technology Keep Twitch at the Top
During this period, YouTube had minimal livestreaming capabilities. The feature became available in 2013, but only to a limited audience and a small set of features. Meanwhile, with its established audience and solid broadcast deals, Twitch had time to invest in making the platform better for viewers continuously. Therein lies another key reason for the site’s success compared to YouTube.
On Twitch, the community chat function creates a special element that brings people together during events. To be a part of Twitch chat during a Worlds match or Evo means to enjoy a chaotic, energetic, and unique experience that one cannot easily find on other platforms. Combined with custom emotes, channel-specific perks and more, Twitch created an environment where people could feel a part of something bigger, even while watching competitive Esports.
YouTube Arrives Late to the Party
After years of lagging, and especially following Amazon’s high-profile acquisition of Twitch, YouTube began to make an effort to court viewers of Esports. By 2017, the restrictions on livestreaming were gone, and users could enjoy an experience somewhat similar to the viewing experience on Twitch itself. YouTube even implemented a live chat function similar to Twitch.
However, it seems to have been too little and too late. Even as YouTube attempts to poach Esports stars from Twitch for its own platform, Twitch’s own growth continues. Although the world’s largest events now tend to simulcast their matches on both Twitch and YouTube, the former continues to garner higher viewer counts and to derive more revenue from its Esports deals.
Although YouTube made a valiant effort to “get in the game,” for now, it appears their efforts have come up short when compared to the long-running effort put in by the Twitch team.
Does YouTube Still Have a Future in the Esports Space?
On the internet, there’s no telling what the future holds. Sometimes, platforms or businesses that seem to be here forever suddenly experience changes that allow competitors to rise to the top. While YouTube has only recently begun focusing its effort in the Esports space, there’s nothing to say it may not compete on the same level as Twitch. For now, though, Twitch is the best place to watch Esports and enjoy the highest level of competition — all the way up to beautiful 4K HD.