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YouTube's plans to go to head to head with videogame streaming service Twitch haven't exactly been a secret.
In June, the company telegraphed the assault with live coverage of the E3 trade show, live streaming interviews with developers and teasing an upcoming YouTube Gaming service. Today, that service kicks off in earnest. And it could be a windfall for the Google-owned unit.
Game streaming, the practice of broadcasting yourself playing a videogame, has been around for years, but it began a stratospheric ascent just under two years ago with the launch of Sony's PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which both integrated Twitch into the new consoles.
Today, Twitch boasts 1.5 million broadcasters. It recently had 2 million concurrent viewers. And its 100 million viewers per month spend an average of 106 minutes watching streamed content on the network per person per day.
YouTube has long had the desire to take a leadership position in the game streaming space. It had hoped to buy Twitch, before Amazon did so one year ago.
The new service will automatically consolidate YouTube's extensive collection of gaming related videos (from online celebrities such as PewDiePie) with live streams for more than 25,000 different games. It will also offer personalized recommendations, based on the pages and channels that users follow.
Analysts say the addition of a second major streaming service will likely be more of a rising tide lifting all boats situation, rather than a blow against Twitch, which is already deeply established in the gaming culture.
And Twitch, which has already beat back assaults from smaller companies like Hitbox.tv and Beam.pro, has long been aware that YouTube was interested in the space and has locked down many of its most popular broadcasters under contract.
"The opportunity in gaming video is enormous, and others have clearly taken notice," said Matthew DiPietro, Twitch's vice president of marketing, in a statement. "We are focused on building upon the foundation we've laid with the Twitch community, and incorporating the next-generation features the community has asked for."
But YouTube doesn't need to take away a substantial portion of Twitch's audience for YouTube gaming to be a success. It simply needs to further engage its existing audience.
"The audience for YouTube viewership of gameplay is already pretty big," said John Taylor, managing director of Arcadia Investment Corp. "My guess is this is going to cull out those who are really serious about it. You're going to see the amount of time they spend watching increase, because the quality of what's offered is only going to get better."
Twitch plans to give its users a peak at its road map next month. The company says it has several announcements planned for TwitchCon, a fan convention being held in San Francisco on Sept. 25-26. While the company wouldn't give specifics, a representative said "thousands" of tickets had already been sold.
And while the announcements at TwitchCon are likely going to be gaming related, some analysts believe that the long-term battle between these two companies is likely to spill over into areas beyond video games.
"While Twitch is focused on gaming right now, the potential for them to go into other verticals is pretty huge," says P.J. McNealy, founder of Digital World Research. "For instance, instead of following the Oscars on Twitter and seeing everyone's snarky responses, you could see a Twitch live stream with real time feedback."