You snooze you lose, Twitch. Activision Blizzard this week announced a multi-year deal with Google to stream future esports events solely through a plucky little website called YouTube. By nicking exclusive rights to broadcast big-hitters like the Overwatch and Call Of Duty Leagues, Hearthstone and such, Google hope to kick-start their struggling attempts to kickstart streaming on YouTube and topple Twitch’s reign over the medium.
YouTube’s never really struggled with games, conceptually. Rough guess, there are probably seventeen trillion gaming youtube channels, and the top dogs aren’t struggling for views. Streaming, though? That’s never quite taken off for YouTube in the way it has for Twitch. Google hope that snagging exclusive rights to stream Actiblizzion’s flashiest esports events will help pull people over to YouTube.
It’s the same move Microsoft pulled when they paid Fortnite virtuoso Ninja more money than god to play videogames on Mixer (even if I, like Alice Bee, don’t understand the appeal one bit). Twitch previously struck a two-year deal with Activision worth $90 million to become the sole broadcaster to the Overwatch League. For whatever reason, they weren’t fussed about renewing it this time around.
However, content as I am to watch the same fifteen ancient Team Fortress 2 vids, I’m not quite so interested in streaming exclusivity as I am the rest of the deal. See, Google’s agreement with Actiblizzion names Google Cloud as their “preferred provider” for online services and multiplayer games. While the press release (via Gamasutra) mentions things like improving latency, Actiblizzion are more interested in tinkering with Google’s AI tech.
See, the publishers hope that they’ll be able to track player behaviour, using Google Cloud’s AI tools to offer “curated” in-game offers and pointers towards “differentiated gaming experiences”. Find yourself using a particular shotgun a whole bunch? Maybe you’d like to see skins for it pop up on the main menu from time to time? That seems to be Actiblizzion’s reckoning, at least.
It remains to be seen how any of those backend shenanigans will play out. For now, the only real issue is remembering to tab over to YouTube, not Twitch, for that esports fix.