Google's answer to Twitch is finally here. YouTube Gaming wants to be the only place you watch video game content -- whether you're catching the action live or devouring hours of on-demand video. The service is available now on a variety of platforms, so here's everything you need to know about YouTube's bid to take over the gaming sphere.
What is YouTube Gaming?
YouTube Gaming is an offshoot of YouTube that features both live and on-demand video game content. The new platform curates YouTube's existing gaming videos, allowing you to more easily find your favorite Call of Duty highlight reel without accidentally stumbling onto a Beyoncé video.
YouTube Gaming looks considerably different than plain old YouTube, with an all-black interface that puts a stream of popular game-related videos front and center. As with standard YouTube, you can follow channels to stay on top of their content; unlike standard YouTube, you can also follow specific games to ensure you'll never miss the latest League of Legends match or crazy Street Fighter comeback.
As of early 2016, YouTube Gaming's interface has been streamlined considerably, nixing its crowded sidebars in favor of separate tabs for getting right to your favorite games and channels. There's even a dedicated "Live" section that make finding the biggest live broadcasts easier.
Where can I get it?
You can access YouTube Gaming on the web at gaming.youtube.com, or download the free app for iOS and Android. You can look forward to 60 frame-per-second video and YouTube's live DVR function regardless of what platform you watch on.
How do I stream to YouTube Gaming?
If you're on a PC, you can stream to YouTube Gaming using broadcasting applications such as Open Broadcaster Software or XSplit. Fortunately, if you're not especially tech-saavy (or just love mobile games), Google recently rolled out the ability to stream directly to YouTube Gaming from your Android device. Once you open the YouTube Gaming app on Android and tap Go Live, you'll be able to broadcast any Android game you like, complete with a webcam feed taken from your phone or tablet's selfie cam.
You can also stream right to YouTube Gaming from your PlayStation 4, so long as you have the system's latest 3.0 update. As of this writing, there's still no way to stream directly to the service from Xbox One, which means you'll have to rely on a PC and capture card for the time being.
How is it different from Twitch?
It's easy to write off YouTube Gaming as a flattering imitation of Twitch at first glance, but the platforms have some key differences.
For one, YouTube Gaming appears to put an equal emphasis on live and on-demand content, which isn't surprising given YouTube's expertise with the latter. Twitch is the current king of live streaming, but its on-demand offerings are limited and hard-to-find by comparison.
YouTube Gaming also has the potential to one-up Twitch in the live department. Live YouTube videos already offer the ability to rewind during a live broadcast (something Twitch still lacks), a feature that could be crucial for those who tune in late to a major tournament. YouTube Gaming also promises an improved chat system for those watching a live stream, though we'll have to see how it compares to Twitch's wealth of universal and channel-specific emotes.
However, YouTube Gaming does have some work to do in order to become an all-encompassing video destination for gamers. YouTube is notorious for hitting its creators with sometimes unwarranted copyright claim warnings, even when the game developers themselves have no issues with their content being used in a clip.
There's also no ignoring Twitch's massive user base, which, throughout 2015, watched over 241 billion minutes of video on the video service. Many popular Twitch streamers have the ability to offer fans a monthly subscription fee in exchange for special rewards; a feature that YouTube Gaming is starting to roll out to select streamers in beta.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.