In 2019, Ninja and shroud were tempted away by Microsoft’s streaming platform Mixer, with big-money deals that were valuable enough to make them leave Twitch. Now, TimTheTatman and Dr Lupo have joined Dr Disrespect and CouRage on YouTube – similarly in big-money deals.
When Tim’s move was announced on September 1, there were rumblings that this could signal the start of an avalanche for Twitch, with fans speculating on who would be the next domino to fall and switch allegiance from purple to red.
The timing was peculiar too – Tim left Twitch on the same day as the #ADayOffTwitch protest, which saw thousands of streamers boycott the platform for 24 hours, raising awareness about the hate raids that have been targeting marginalized creators.
All this made for the perfect storm, with people prematurely predicting the downfall of Twitch as a platform. Losing its biggest creators, facing backlash from smaller streamers, and being criticized by regular users all at once.
Why are streamers leaving Twitch?
Really though, this is all an overreaction. There is only one reason why these streamers are leaving Twitch, and it has nothing to do with hate raids, DMCA strikes, a vague banning policy, or alleged favoritism towards certain channels.
The reason is that YouTube is offering these streamers enough money that they never have to worry about their sub count dropping or not having enough donations in a given month. When Valkyrae joined YouTube, the contract was so valuable that it wouldn’t matter if she had literally one viewer.
“When I switched over obviously I signed a contract so I was like ‘Ok, this is for stability,'” the 100 Thieves member said. “I can do what I want and not have to worry about numbers and stuff, if I have one viewer I’ll be fine.”
DrLupo was equally as transparent. “Everybody’s just trying to secure the bag, right? There’s no shame in that. That’s literally why everybody gets up and goes to work, right? So of course, the financial situation that YouTube presented me without a doubt is like, you know, I’m secure for life. Everybody’s trying to get to that point. Why would I say no to that?”
— Susan Wojcicki (@SusanWojcicki) September 1, 2021
In fact, if it wasn’t for these bumper contracts, it’s likely that these streamers will lose revenue from stream income alone. Dr Disrespect, who moved to YouTube not by choice following his Twitch ban, has revealed that he makes only a quarter of what he did before.
In fairness, the Doc’s situation is unique, because the mystery around his ‘ban’ meant that he was less brand-friendly in the eyes of some partners, and so the loss of sponsored streams could be a factor.
But still, YouTube doesn’t have the same level of monetization for streamers yet. Although it has made big strides, and will continue to make more, there’s still a long way to go. Gifted subs — a feature YouTube Gaming appears ready to implement — are huge for Twitch streamers, and inflate their sub count massively thanks to their biggest fans with the most disposable income willing to contribute more.
Twitch bounties allow streamers of various sizes to take advantage of sponsored streams. Subscription loyalty benefits are incredibly powerful for keeping fans subscribed for years. The benefits of Prime Gaming are obviously unique to Twitch as well.
Will YouTube overtake Twitch?
If you ask YouTube, they would argue they already have. The metrics for gaming content overall is far bigger on YouTube, when you include VOD content, and especially when looking at viewership from Asia and South America.
But, if we focus purely on livestream content, Twitch is still dominating. In Q2 of 2021, Twitch’s average concurrent viewership was 3 million – YouTube Gaming was only 599,000. Also, Twitch’s concurrent viewership increased from Q1, while YouTube’s saw a 5% decrease from Q1 to Q2.
— timthetatman👑 (@timthetatman) September 1, 2021
There’s no doubt that these numbers will grow for YouTube as they sign these big-name Twitch streamers. But, will the average livestream-watcher totally migrate from YouTube to Twitch, just because Tim and DrLupo have left? Probably not. Their hardcore fans will, but those who simply prefer Twitch are likely to find a new favorite streamer there instead.
Why? Because what YouTube Gaming is yet to achieve in the livestream space is still glaringly obvious: discoverability, shareability, and community. Even during the CDL (a product YouTube paid handsomely for), CoD fans complained of it being hard to find the stream.
YouTube is more than aware of these shortcomings though and is definitely working to address them. The addition of clips earlier this year was a massive improvement – but they’re still not as easily shareable as Twitch. We cannot, for example, embed a YouTube clip in this article. There is simply no embed option.
Users cannot browse a streamer’s ‘best clips’ either – another much-loved function on Twitch.
In terms of community, this is going to be the most difficult barrier to overcome. Twitch chat has its problems, toxicity being the main one. But there’s no doubt that the chat features are one of the site’s strong points. Channel points, polls, mods, VIPs, badges, commands, and of course, emotes, all contribute to the community engagement.
Emotes might seem like a frivolous feature – how important can ‘KEKW’ and ‘PogChamp’ really be? The answer is very. YouTube has chat emotes of course, and streamers can upload their own just like Twitch, but otherwise, they’re essentially just Apple emojis (not to mention they make the stream lag when scrolling through them).
YouTube is definitely a serious competitor to Twitch’s livestreaming throne, one that the Amazon-owned platform will be looking over their shoulder at. But, for now, luring a handful of big names with big contracts won’t be enough to cause a wholesale shift in viewer’s attention.