Twitch, the incredibly popular video game streaming service, is apparently being acquired by Google, and more specifically YouTube, as part of a deal worth upwards of $1 billion (€730 million).The deal has been reported by Variety, citing various inside sources, and the news has been corroborated by the Wall Street Journal, revealing that the acquisition talks are currently "at an early stage," according to two people familiar with the discussed matter.
Twitch started airing live gameplay in June 2011, focusing mainly on eSports broadcasting and live video game streams featuring gamers all around the world. Since then, is has become the largest video game streaming service in the world, and second only to YouTube and NetFlix in terms of traffic volume.
The company's latest revealed figures boast over 45 million visitors each month, and around one million monthly broadcasters, with over one quarter of all streaming being attributed to PlayStation 4 owners, following the service becoming integrated with Sony's home entertainment system. Microsoft also jumped on the bandwagon but was a little late to the party, only adding native Twitch support to the Xbox One console in March 2014.
Variety's report indicates that YouTube is preparing the Twitch acquisition deal to see if US regulators will challenge it on grounds of anticompetitive concerns regarding online video streaming.
For Google, Twitch would be a considerable boost to its YouTube video streaming service, which has its own live streaming service that covers games, music, sports, news and other venues, but lacks Twitch's exposure and active community.
The large, engaged and very active audience, constantly streaming, watching and sharing live gaming videos, makes the service very attractive to advertisers. YouTube, on the other hand, lacks the king of engagement Twitch has, and it is most likely attempting to buy something that already works instead of making its own service more popular.
Another factor to take in when it comes to advertisements on Twitch is the fact that its users usually watch hours upon hours of live video content of other players, whereas YouTube's video game content, although extensive, is much more fragmented.
Twitch is the most successful product of Justin.tv, one of the earliest streaming video websites in the world. The company changed its name to Twitch Interactive earlier this year, and it is yet unclear whether Twitch's acquisition would also include Justin.tv's other employees and technology.
Twitch also serves as a distribution platform for various shows created by known media outlets, including CBS Interactive's GameSpot, Destructoid and Joystiq. The implications of the sale are yet unknown, as there might be unforeseen consequences regarding the way Twitch integration works on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but for now it is too early to speculate.