It was revealed around May 18th that Youtube (and, by extension, Google) was going to buy Twitch, the #1 E-sports streaming service, for one billion dollars in straight-up cash.
Predictably, the internet wailed. And the wailing’s not unwarranted, I’ll grant you, even Youtube is anticipating investigation by the U.S regulators on claims that they’re trying to develop a monopoly. It’s an easy criticism to levy towards Youtube, which is undoubtedly the unchallenged leader of video services on the internet, and frankly I’m not here to tell you these doubters are wrong: a lot of companies that shouldn’t be merging are merging as of late and it seems every time it happens those companies get richer while our bills go up.
There’s been no official word from either Twitch or Youtube at time of writing regarding the merger, but I think it’s safe to say when they do finally talk they’ll just say how good this merger is for both their customers and their company and how excited everyone is to be working with each other.
So we’ve got people saying this is the worst thing ever, and we have people who are probably going to say it’s the best thing ever, and both parties aren’t exactly unbiased. And although I’m going to try to be as objective as possible, I’m not honestly unbiased myself–I’ll generally lean on the customer’s side in the customer vs company debate—but I’ll try to analyze the effects of this merger without devoting too much of my time spouting liberal dogma about big business ruining America.
But there will still be some.
First things first: I am not a lawyer. My knowledge of the law is rudimentary and scavenged from the corners of the internet where people more qualified about such topics reside. And from what I can gather, Youtube purchasing Twitch doesn’t NECESSARILY mean that the stingy copyright infringement cases that have been getting channels and Let’s Plays pulled from Youtube will jump over to Twitch. And I strongly suspect it won’t ever, and here’s the common sense argument why–while Twitch gets a lot of its views and money from E-sports streaming, it also gets a boatload of money from the live-feed and speedplay streaming it offers. I cannot fathom why Youtube would buy Twitch, then lop off one if it’s money-making arm on dubious copyright infringement claims. Twitch would not be worth one billion dollars if it were just an E-sports streamer.
Besides, most of that controversy was cleared up when developers stepped in and defended the viability of Let’s Plays as a form of advertising. I doubt it’s going to resurface now, especially since developers have been so tolerant of Twitch streaming before the merger: considering how aggressive Nintendo is at defending their IP, it’s astonishing to me that they never once thought to shut down Twitch Plays Pokémon, for example.
So if we can assume (and I really think we can) that Youtube doesn’t plan to bring more convoluted lawyer stuff to Twitch, what else is there to worry about? Well, like I stated before, Youtube is just an arm of Google now, and some of the changes Google made when it bought Youtube should probably be expected to happen on Twitch. Since you can’t’ really “comment” on a Twitch stream, you’ll probably need a Google plus account to use the chat, which means you’ll probably need to link it up with a Gmail account. Same goes for streamers, I would imagine—if this was all just a scheme to get more people on Google Plus, well, then it just might pay off.
Don’t forget that Twtich compatibility is built into both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4—this may also be a way for Youtube to get more fingers into the console pie without directly involving itself with any hardware or game development. Hope you like logging into your Google Plus account with a controller instead of a keyboard.
There would be good parts about the changes, though. Twitch might find itself ‘relocated’ to Youtube, to replace the current Youtube stream, which would make Twitch easier to access and make subsequent videos of streamed content easier to produce and faster to release. I imagine the quality of the stream could be improved with Youtube’s servers, and maybe we might get some new ads: and I know that doesn’t seem like much of a benefit but I’m getting tired of Spanish paper towel commercials. Increased visibility on Youtube might also go a long way to the legitimizing of eSports, or at least get more people interested and watching.
Of course, the actual changes to how Twitch will operate and the way it affects our streaming could arguably be called completely secondary or even negligible compared the real concern many gamers and critics have regarding the purchase. Despite Google Plus integration, for example, Youtube is still as popular as ever, and I imagine the same thing will happen with Twitch. But the real fear isn’t just about a change of management, it’s about how terrifyingly large Google and Youtube are getting. Companies getting “too big to fail” may be a desired end state for the company itself, but it’s pretty much never good for the customer because it spit’s in the face of the capitalist system as a whole, allowing companies to lavish in the benefits of capitalism without all the risks that otherwise make the system function. Twitch and Google may not have always had the same audience but they were always competitors for your time, attention, and ad revenue, and now unless you switch over to Azubu (Frankly, I used Azubu before the merger, it’s less laggy for me) that competition isn’t there anymore.
The U.S. regulators may challenge the merger, as Google predicts, but if history has set any sort of precedent it won’t go anywhere and the merger will go off without a hitch. So how worried should you be about this merger, ultimately? If you just want to watch streams and the politics bore you, it’s really just a minor inconvenience. But if you’re a big picture type, well… it should be worrying, but I wouldn’t call it a disaster.
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