YouTube has its eyes set on acquiring Twitch.tv for $1 billion according to a report that has spurred heated responses all across the Internet. Twitch.tv, a live streaming e-sports and gaming platform, attracts up to 45 million unique viewers each month and continues to draw in new ones while maintaining its veterans. Currently the U.S., Germany, Brazil, and the United Kingdom are the countries with the highest Twitch.tv traffic. However, recent reports from Electronic Entertainment and Design Research (EEDR) at the 2014 Games Marketing Summit shift the focus to China. According to EEDR, there are more gamers in China than there are U.S. citizens. In fact, for every U.S. citizen there are 1.6 Chinese gamers. Thus, by all outward accounts it would appear as though China would be an opportune gamer-base to tap. The clincher: China has placed a ban on YouTube.
Much of the hype surrounding the YouTube-Twitch deal has to do with gamer’s concerns for YouTube’s strict copyright infringement policies. Many of the Twitch users like to play games to background music, and there is the worry that if the deal goes through, the video-sharing site’s strict policies will be applied to Twitch. For some of the e-sports fanatics, change seems to be an unwelcomed inevitability and has malcontents tweeting “#RIPTwitch.” Other users of the gaming platform are less concerned, and even welcome the change on the grounds that the solid infrastructure offered by YouTube and Google will only bring strength to Twitch.
China has banned YouTube a couple of times in recent history, once in 2007 and again in 2009. Both bans were reported to be the result of controversial video uploads that Shanghai deemed threatening to the country. A looming unknown in all of this YouTube-Twitch talk is what China will do with the gaming platform’s access if it is bought by YouTube. As it stands now, the video-sharing site is still banned in China, whereas the gaming site is currently accessible.
To intensify matters, China only just released its ban on gaming consoles last year. China’s console ban was instituted 14 years ago in response to concerns about the mental and physical health of its gaming youth with the hopes that it would improve their overall wellbeing. The release of the console ban was nevertheless accompanied by a list of censorship rules. Among them, continued bans on anything that is purported to challenge Chinese culture and public ethics, as well as anything that promotes superstition at the expense of China’s “policy on religion.” Overt violence is not tolerated, nor is anything that encourages gambling activities.
Though there are mixed feelings about the YouTube-Twitch arrangement, they are understandable in light of the host of unknowns surrounding the issue. The niche of Twitch users has no choice but to stand by and wait until an official announcement is made. The arrangement could have significant consequences for gamers in China, who have only recently experienced a release of a ban on gaming consoles. If the YouTube ban carries over and applies to Twitch, it may open the door for other in-house gaming platforms in China.
By Courtney Anderson