Early May 2022, popular Twitch streamer Sykkuno announced that he had ended his contract with Twitch and would be switching over to YouTube Gaming, making him the most recent big-time streamer to make the swap. While transitioning from 4 million Twitch followers to 2.8 million YouTube subscribers might seem like a downgrade, there are many more reasons why Sykkuno and other Twitch giants have jumped the fence to join YouTube Gaming.
Sykunno explained that the reason he left Twitch was less a matter of money and more about other things, like an email from Twitch in which they had misspelled his username as “Sukkuno.” While it could be brushed off as a simple typo, the subtle disrespect and uncaring nature of Twitch’s management ended up being the deciding factor in Sykkuno’s move. Others have criticized Twitch for its disrespectful treatment of their streamers as well.
This is not only pushing more streamers to switch to YouTube Gaming, but also getting Twitch’s viewers to switch too. In an episode of the “Banter” podcast with Karl Jacobs and Sapnap, Sykkuno described how Twitch treats its big streamers as if they are replaceable. The hosts agreed, and Jacobs added that Twitch has begun to rely on its community and platform to keep streamers instead of adequately paying creators for how much they are carrying the website.
In addition to the treatment of streamers, there are also complaints about Twitch’s recent lackluster contracts that offer streamers less money for the same number of hours they normally would put in. A Twitch employee revealed that Twitch feels so confident about its place in the video game streaming industry that it feels as if they don’t need to offer as much.
To counter this, YouTube Gaming has offered contracts that are more lucrative and require fewer hours streamed, obviously a more attractive choice for most streamers. In this way, YouTube Gaming has been able to slowly add more and more Twitch refugees to their streaming lineup. With superstar streamers like Valkyrae, TimTheTatman, Ludwig, DrLupo and now Sykkuno, YouTube Gaming is quickly gaining traction and becoming more well-known for video game streaming.
However, moving to YouTube Gaming isn’t a cure-all for the difficulties streamers are having. Even with more lucrative contracts, streamers still have problems with viewership, copyright strikes and features they miss from Twitch. Pokimane — the largest female streamer on Twitch — has explained that she doesn’t see herself leaving Twitch until there’s a bigger place for streamers on YouTube Gaming.
From a viewer’s standpoint, Twitch definitely has more of an established community and more features to interact with viewers built into the service. Viewers hang out in chat and feel as if they can interact directly with the streamer, as well as have conversations with other viewers — an atmosphere that hasn’t translated completely to YouTube Gaming yet. Twitch has an overall aesthetic that has become synonymous with gaming and streaming, while YouTube Gaming has yet to find a memorable user interface design. In addition, Pokimane said she sees smaller creators struggle with finding an audience as YouTube hasn’t figured out a good way to add discoverability. This makes it hard to be seen, as the platform seems to mostly feature their most popular streamers, whose loyal pre-existing fanbase will follow them to the new platform.
Many streamers cite missing features on YouTube Gaming as one of the biggest reasons they don’t want to make the switch. YouTube has been surprisingly responsive to these comments, however, and has added in some of what people were asking for. On Twitch, gifted subscriptions are a way for viewers to buy subscriptions to the streamer for people in chat. When subscribed to a channel, viewers have access to perks that vary by streamer. Subs can be gifted to specific viewers or gifted randomly to anyone watching. This has become a Twitch tradition, as viewers can gift subs as a way to give the streamer money as well as surprise a few lucky viewers in chat.
When it was brought up to YouTube that streamers missed this feature, they added in a memberships Gifting Beta, which mimics gifted subs. Another cornerstone of Twitch culture is raiding a channel. This is when someone finishing their stream leads their viewers to someone else’s stream, usually encouraging viewers to spam comments, subscribe or donate to the streamer. This is often used between friends to increase their viewer counts, and some will pick smaller streamers to raid as a way to give their channel some love. YouTube recently added Live Redirects, which is their version of raiding.
YouTube Gaming coming in to split the spotlight with Twitch is the beginning of the end of Twitch’s long, monopolistic reign on online live streaming. In 2020, Twitch was expected to hit 40 million monthly viewers in the United States by 2021, but has massively eclipsed this number by hitting 30 million viewers daily in 2022, mainly attributed to a large viewer increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while Twitch keeps the top spot when it comes to streaming popularity, its rate of growth has begun to decline.
Meanwhile, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming’s popularity have slowly but steadily been on the rise. The video game industry has always struggled with keeping a fair market, and these new streaming services are helping to restore balance. Video game distribution market Steam had a longtime grip on the PC digital video game market, and has recently seen competition from other platforms like the Epic Games Store and GOG.com. We’re starting to see more of a demand for a diversified market in games in other areas as well. The rise of indie games is proving that players like to see more variety not only in the games they play, but in who’s making them as well.