If you thought 2020 was going to be only a battle between the best teams and best players, it seems that you were mistaken. Industry experts have all talked about the impending platform wars that have already broken out and will only grow bigger in 2020. While Twitch is synonymous with gaming and esports, names like YouTube and even Mixer have begun to make moves to challenge this title. In 2019, Mixer signed two of Twitch’s top streamers - Ninja and Shroud while names like CourageJD and Valkyrae moved to YouTube. Disguised Toast, a popular Hearthstone streamer also jumped ship and joined Facebook.
Also read: Shroud leaves Twitch to join Mixer
Platforms are not only signing exclusives with streamers, but also esport IPs to try and leverage the popularity and following
More recently, the Global Head of Gaming of YouTube, Ryan Watt announced that they had acquired the rights for Activision Blizzard’s Esport Titles. The multi-year deal makes Google Cloud the service provider for Activision Blizzard’s game hosting infrastructure while making YouTube their exclusive streaming platform. This will mean that properties like Overwatch League and the newly announced Call of Duty League will be available exclusively on YouTube. Additionally, all Hearthstone based Esports will also be on YouTube from now on.
The opening weekend of the Call of Duty League was streamed to an average of ~50K viewers this weekend. Both OWL and CoD League are prime esport properties with significant following, mainstream presence and global recognition. This move is certain to have some big consequences on gaming and esports and the war between platforms to get the biggest content creators and esport IPs. The success and/or failure of these titles on YouTube will be important to shaping how the future of esports plays out in the coming years. In the past, companies like ESL have tried to experiment by moving to other platforms such as Facebook, but reversed the decision after facing community backlash. However, YouTube is a much more established platform which offers not only better quality but a potentially bigger audience.