On Tuesday, Google its new video game streaming platform, Google Stadia. The tech behemoth stepping into the fairly new cloud gaming ring is certainly a big deal, but the effects it will have on YouTube’s ecosystem may be just as big.
With the Stadia announcement, Google revealed heavy YouTube integrations with the gaming platform. Cloud gaming services Google’s gaming platform, but they didn’t have the help of a massively popular video platform — nor did they exist at a time when internet speeds could handle video game streaming.
YouTube users watching a gaming stream will be able to launch right into playing the very game they were viewing thanks to a button which will be embedded on Stadia-based livestreams. While we don’t yet know if users will have to purchase each game a la carte or subscribe to an open library with Stadia, which games get the most play will almost certainly depend on who’s streaming them. Developers already promote games via popular streamers; Stadia could carry that to the next level.
With such deep YouTube integrations, it’s very possible that Stadia changes the gaming culture there. For example, a feature called Crowd Play will allow fans of a YouTube streamer to jump right into a game and play with the creator they were just watching. Interaction with viewers is such an integral part of livestreaming, so creators could take to this feature very quickly depending on the genre of games they play. Successful creators usually follow stringent streaming schedules to keep their fans happy, so it’s not hard to imagine a future where it becomes the norm to have Crowd Play time distinctly carved out.
Stadia integration with Google Assistant will also have far-reaching effects on YouTube. According to Google, Stadia users will be able to ask Google Assistant for help during a particularly difficult point during a video game. Google Assistant will automatically detect where the player is in the game and serve up the most relevant YouTube video to help out.
The details on exactly how Google will determine which video to show aren’t yet known. But, again, depending on how it works, we can see developers partnering up with specific streamers to create these video walkthroughs, or perhaps streamers will attempt to game whatever algorithm Google creates to deliver these videos. Either way, YouTube’s gaming creators are about to become much more influential.
It’s clear that Google is turning up the heat on Amazon’s Twitch with its Stadia-YouTube integrations. While are, by far, the biggest video niche on YouTube, Twitch is still the most popular place to watch video game streaming. The platform has catered specifically to gamers with its Twitch Partner program. Twitch currently allows viewers to they were watching through the platform with a percentage of the purchase price going to the livestreamer.
However, one issue to consider is YouTube’s own problems. Over the years, the site has been criticized for a multitude of issues, including platforming . YouTube is currently trying to fix its , which has long been known to send viewers down a rabbit hole filled with conspiracy theories and extremist views almost regardless of what they were looking for in the first place. The site also recently dealt with a regarding exploitative children’s content and predatory comments.
And then, separately, we saw with the shooting in New Zealand that is a whole problem of its own. Passively watching videos and streams could be a time suck. Certainly many more hours will be spent on YouTube when actual interactive gameplay will be so heavily integrated. Google needs to be prepared to tackle these issues that would likely be compounded if Stadia is to be a massive success.
Another issue to consider is how any of Stadia’s features could possibly hinder what most livestreamers are after: video views. Game streamers may find that their viewers going off to also play the game they’re playing affects their streaming numbers. For some, it may just not be worth it to promote the games in that way on Stadia.
With such heavy integrations, Google is obviously depending on YouTube to help make Stadia stick around. But if the platform lands the way the company hopes, it may also change the YouTube creator ecosystem.