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YouTube Gaming: What to expect from the Twitch rival

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YouTube Gaming has officially launched. But what exactly is it?

As YouTube announced back in June, YouTube Gaming is "A YouTube built for gamers."

But this is about more than just the existing video game-related content on Google's video service being repackaged and funnelled into one easy-to-consume place. Much more.

Here's what you can expect to see from YouTube Gaming.

Going live

Okay, so YouTube Gaming does indeed pull all of the existing YouTube gaming (with a little 'g') content together into one easy-to-consume place.

It's got your PewDiePie and your favourite gaming website's game reviews and that Minecraft recreation of Les Miserables that went viral last Tuesday (probably).

Related: 5 Reasons Amazon bought Twitch

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But YouTube's focus here is very much on the live streaming element, which it has pretty much sucked at for some time now.

Live gaming broadcasts, which have become a huge hit with gamers, will be surfaced and pushed to the fore in the service's new interface. These broadcasts will even auto-play from the zoomed-in thumbnail view on your homescreen.

So it's like Twitch, then?

Well, yes. The Amazon-owned video service has established a thriving community of live streamers, chiefly in the gaming space, and that's precisely the audience YouTube is targeting here.

In fact, around this time last year Google seemed to be the front-runner to acquire Twitch before Amazon swooped in with a surprise £584 million offer. Google and YouTube, clearly burned by the move, set to making their own live streaming service.

While Twitch will continue to have the benefit of greater cachet among the famously tribal hardcore gaming crowd, its position in this young market is actually more precarious than it might like to admit.

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While YouTube has fumbled its own early live streaming attempts, it continues to be the go-to service for recorded gaming video content. Indeed, most heavy Twitch content providers still use YouTube to archive their stuff, and as a secondary revenue stream.

What has emerged from this is a split video offering for gamers, whereby they have to switch between two distinct service depending on whether they want to watch live broadcasts or carefully recorded content. It's more convoluted than it needs to be, and so YouTube Gaming is an attempt to offer the complete gaming video package.

What's the difference between YouTube Gaming and Twitch?

One potentially crucial advantage YouTube has over Twitch is its DVR feature. Just like your TV box, YouTube Gaming will automatically buffer live broadcasts for up to four hours. This means that if you miss the start of a broadcast, you can just rewind. That's something that isn't currently possible on Twitch.

It's actually part of a wider less rigid approach to live streaming on YouTube's part. Whereas you have to schedule live broadcasts in Twitch, YouTube Gaming will let creators start recording on a whim.

YouTube Gaming

Combined with that DVR buffering feature, YouTube wants its viewers to stumble across live content casually, just as they do with its recorded offerings.

YouTube Gaming should also be more popular than Twitch with content rights holders. Its advanced Content ID system will kill broadcasts if third-party content (like music playing in the background) is detected.

How's it structured?

More than 25,000 games will have their own YouTube Gaming pages at launch. These pages will contain all YouTube video content - all the reviews, Now Playings, and of course all the live broadcasts - related to each specific game.

Related: Best PS4 games | Best Xbox One games

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Going by early test versions of the service, the left hand menu on the YouTube Gaming website will contain popular and trending games. Meanwhile the YouTube Gaming search system will be specifically catered to gaming content, so "typing "call" will show you "Call of Duty" and not "Call Me Maybe," to use YouTube's own example.

The right-hand menu, meanwhile, will contain the kind of channels that will be familiar to normal YouTube users - though obviously with an exclusive gaming slant.

One other feature that YouTube Gaming has over regular YouTube is the ability to star, or favourite, games and channels. This won't subscribe you to the channel like in regular YouTube, but rather will serve to surface related content to your home page.

So what exactly has launched?

YouTube Gaming has now launched as a stand-alone website in every country that currently has access to regular YouTube.

In the UK and US, users will also get access to the free YouTube Gaming app for iOS and Android, which will provide the same basic features in a smartphone-savvy UI.

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