YouTube and TikTok are making moves in the gaming space

We're not talking dance trends

From short-form video to live streaming, it’s no secret that gaming content has been fiercely battled over by every major name in the social and digital media space. It’s also a well-known fact that it’s been largely dominated by one brand overall – often to the complaints of creators who just want to be seen and share their work more than anything.

This week, YouTube and TikTok signaled that they are making moves to shake up the gaming content ‘meta’ and give ‘Glitch’ and friends (that’s Twitch, by the way) a proper challenge.

The situation:

YouTube and TikTok have both made deliberate, but strategically different plays to court creators, audiences, and organizations to their gaming channels and platforms in a consistent ramp-up of aggression to draw the gaming industry’s focus to its content and creators.

While YouTube seems to be doubling down on influencers, content, consumers, audiences, and monetization, TikTok is laser-focused on mastering the partnership space in lining up creators and content with organizations and companies looking to get in on the multi-billion-dollar gaming industry from a reach and market angle. Both have made aggressive moves towards bringing their platforms in line with and taking Twitch – the undisputed champion of live-streaming gaming content – to the mat.

The details:

YouTube just named Leo Olebe as its new head of gaming – a critical position that___ was left vacant for over eight months. Olebe will take the helm, bringing previous experience from Google as managing director of the Google Play games partnerships team. He also has extensive experience in the AAA space, having worked for Games for Change, Zynga, EA Games, and more. With previous Facebook Gaming partnership management experience, I expect continued focus on partnerships and influencers for YT Gaming going forward.

Valkyrae youtube
Valkyrae is one of many big streamers that made the swap from Twitch to Youtube.    Image by Valkyrae

YouTube has made some stunning moves (with contracts to match) over the past two years. Some of the most record-breaking actions involve high-profile exclusive engagements with Valkyrae and Dr. Disrespect in 2020. More Twitch royalty followed with big names like Dr.Lupo, TimTheTatman, Sykkuno, LilyPichu, and more leaving ‘Glitch’ for the tubes.

Each left vocally in varying degrees of heat around their experience with Twitch and the reasons for their move, effectively making the “Leaving Twitch for YouTube” video a trend of its own.

TikTok’s big gaming moves

TikTok is gearing up for a greater commitment to the gaming space – announcing its first-ever global gaming event – “Tiktok Made Me Play It”. This live stream showcase is coming soon and goes live on Nov. 2.

TikTok summed up its approach to gaming, stating “The future of gaming is here – and it’s happening on TikTok. Leading publishers are launching games on our platform as culturally relevant entertainment properties, building communities, and inspiring broader entertainment audiences to discover and play their games. Now, your mission is simple: discover why TikTok is the gaming industry’s #1 gateway to growth.”

TikTok’s approach to the creator economy is focused on global audiences. High-tier creators and gaming execs will be in attendance, trying to nail down the crossover space between gaming and non-gaming brands and initiatives. The event is mainly focused on partnerships seeking to integrate gaming markets into their existing operations and strategies. YouTube’s approach aims at gaming consumer audiences, leaving space for both to command their own niches, rather than diluting competition.

TikTok recently introduced LIVE streaming for select creators. They quickly followed up with the ability to monetize streams through micro tips (their version of ‘bits’). The clincher is their Pulse Program, introducing live subscriptions to bring the platform in line with YouTube and Twitch. TikTok has announced more integrations for gaming creators including better audience targeting, creator development programs, and partnerships with influencer agencies to help creators develop into a career format.

TikTok Gaming
Image by TikTok

CloudFlare metrics confirmed TikTok is far and above the most popular social media platform by users and had even dethroned Google last year as the #1 most popular website. This really punctuates the resounding issues creators and communities have had with Twitch in the past couple of years, specifically around discoverability, creator support, and monetization

What it means for gamers:

It’s two-tone in both cases really – what it means for gamers AND gaming creators. In both cases, it’s widely known (and felt) that Twitch’s steaming and gaming dominance needs proper competition, for the sake of all creators and content consumers.

While I have love for Twitch, it has long gotten far too comfortable with its position. They have gradually withdrawn benefits, tools, and resources for creators to build, engage and grow. To be fair, however, it is unmatched in functionality, game integrations, and reach. It has, let’s not forget, out-lasted major plays from both Microsoft (Mixer) and Facebook (Facebook Gaming) just by waiting them out, effectively.

I honestly feel this case is different though. YouTube is taking a slow, calculated approach to increasing revenue, leveraging its already superior position to court Twitch’s biggest talent (with ease, it seems). While TikTok is going after the industry partnerships, helping orgs break into the gaming space and creators break into the career space.

It could be the exact team-up needed to shake things up and usher in better options for creators and viewers. At the very least, Glitch and co. should be leaning-in and taking this one very seriously.

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Brad is a lifelong gamer, 12 year veteran of the gaming and esports marketing industry and owner/founder of TwinsticksAndTies.com where his passion for the business of gaming takes form. As a writer, Twitch and Instagram influencer and industry professional, Brad has produced bylines and content work for Walmart Gaming, SQUAD and Northern Arena to name a few.
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