NEWS

Twitch as we know it will die if it's bought by Google, and that's a good thing

May 20, 2014 1:53 AM

Hayden Dingman

Over the weekend, news broke that Google is in talks to snap up Twitch.tv, the popular games streaming service, possibly for as much as a billion dollars. The Internet, with its characteristic Zen calm and tempered "wait-and-see" reaction to all things news, immediately coined the hashtag #RIPTwitch to complain about the deal.

Let's get this straight: Twitch is not a good service. Twitch was never meant to grow as big as it is--the fourth-largest source of traffic on the entire Internet. Twitch needs help. Twitch is the de facto standard for games streaming not because it's an incredible platform, but because it's the only platform of any real merit.

That's not to say it's bad. Heck, when YouTube's most recent copyright robot scandal exploded I suggested that if Twitch started allowing users to simply upload game-related videos (professionally produced Let's Plays and the like) it would start siphoning all that traffic away from YouTube. And I stand by that.

The problem is Twitch can't handle that sort of site. It can't even handle the site as it stands now.

Growing pains

It's important to remember that Twitch started as a small, games-related subcategory on Justin.tv. Then, in some sort of chicken-and-egg relationship, Twitch and the eSports community built each other into a massive phenomenon that rents out the Staples Center for professional gaming events and boasts 1.8% of the U.S. Internet's traffic at peak hours. The craze grew so big, in fact, that Twitch swallowed up its parent company, Justin.tv, back in February.

But like a number of other start-ups that have grown exponentially, Twitch can't handle its popularity. Neither developers nor video streaming technology comes cheap! Twitch's live video quality is abysmal, even on the best settings--and despite looking like garbage, Twitch has a tendency to lag. Twitch's mobile apps are subpar, especially when it comes to user interface. And Twitch management still has to deal with issues like this, left over from a time when it was a much smaller company.

Yes, investment cash could help Twitch build out for the long haul, but beyond the $1 billion, Google offers already-established infrastructure. Google offers money to actually pay livestreaming gamers, and lots of them, instead of the 4,000 or so Twitch Partners currently getting paid. Google offers (presumably) full YouTube integration, so there would be no more need to archive a video on Twitch, download it, and then upload to YouTube--an archaic and awful process people endure because they know the real money is made through YouTube and not Twitch.

And most importantly, Google offers an enormous audience--the type of audience that probably doesn't even know what Twitch.tv is. That means more streamers can build a following, more viewers can behold the spontaneous creativity of the likes of Twitch Plays Pokemon, and there's more incentive for third-parties to invest in creating "make my life easier" streaming tools, be it open-source software like OBS or premium products like Fraps.

You want legitimacy for game streaming? This is legitimacy. It's not a perfect solution, by any means--I have serious misgivings about YouTube's spotty record with copyright issues, and the possibility of needing a Google+ account to use Twitch. Jumping straight to #RIPTwitch is an overreaction, though, and a foolish one at that.

If Google or another interested party didn't step in, Twitch would likely be killed off in time, no matter how popular it is with the Dota 2 crowd. It would just die the slow, screaming death of a service whose back is breaking under the weight of its own popularity before another service with more funding and more robust infrastructure--you know, one like YouTube--came along to put an end to its existence.

ALSO READ

Windows 10's radical DirectX 12 graphics tech, tested: More CPU cores, more performance

If you're buying or building a new gaming PC for Windows 10 and DirectX 12, your priority should be as many "real" CPU cores you can afford, running at high clock speeds.

Inside The Flock, the Mac game that slowly dies as its players do (online)

Slated to hit Mac and PC on Friday, August 21, The Flock is a truly eerie experience. The first-person multiplayer game is draped in shadows as you control a hobbled, sluggish human-like creature protecting a glowing artifact--or one of the four ferocious monsters out to claim it. The Flock is billed as a horror game, and it's the rare one in which the scares come not from scripted sequences or computer-controlled characters, but rather other online players.

Xbox-to-PC streaming has a secret "very high" quality mode

One of the coolest features in Windows 10, at least for Xbox One owners, is the ability to stream console games to the PC over Wi-Fi.

Twitch is now communally playing through Dark Souls (poorly)

The whole "Twitch Plays..." phenomenon--in which people try to prove the "give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and a thousand years" thing, except with video games--has reached its logical conclusion. After beating Pokemon and even somehow beating Halo, Twitch is now communally playing Dark Souls, a.k.a. the game that is already nigh-on-impossible for some people to complete playing normally.

Tomb Raider 2: Rise of the Tomb Raider for Mac release date rumours: When will the new Tomb Raider game come out on Mac?

Here's everything we know so far about the new Tomb Raider game, Tomb Raider 2: Rise of the Tomb Raider, and when - and if - it's likely to come out for the Mac. As well as the Mac release date, we also speculate on the game's UK price and how to buy Lara Croft's new adventure for Mac OS X.

Expert Opinion

fadell-nest-100254262-orig_500.jpg

Apple doesn't need its own gadgets to dominate the smart home

If you believe the weekend rumors, Apple will announce a connected-home platform next week at WWDC. But before you get too excited about an iThermostat and an iFridge and an iCamera watching you sleep, consider this: If Apple does get into the home-automation market, that doesn't necessarily mean it'll make smart-home gadgets of its own.

Editors Pick

justin_tv-100367814-orig_500.jpg

Justin.tv goes off the air

With all signs pointing to a Google purchase of Twitch, the company behind Justin.tv has shut down the live video service.

my_verizon_mobile-100367793-orig_500.png

Verizon fires back at FCC over data throttling

The FCC called out Verizon for its plans to throttle customers with unlimited data plans who use the most data, so the carrier responded.

unionstreet_yelp-100366548-orig_500.png

Business faces backlash after threatening $500 fines for negative Yelp reviews

Businesses who don't know how to manage their social media presence should remember that the Internet can be vicious.

Latest Product Reviews

key-ingredient-tablet-100566733-orig_500.png

Key Ingredient kitchen tablet review: Yummy recipes can't rescue this crummy tablet

Meatballs. Giant bacon-wrapped meatballs. The Key Ingredient Recipe tablet suggested this fantastic idea to me when I searched for a meatball recipe. It's a good thing the meatballs were tasty, because that's about the only thing this tablet gets right.