YouTube Gaming joins race for video game audience, profits

Google's new YouTube Gaming platform is part of a rush to woo gamers as video games grow to rival the movie industry in popularity and profits, technology watchers say.

Advertisers will pay premium for gamers' engagement, analysts says

YouTube Gaming is a new app and site specifically aimed at gamers launching this summer. (YouTube/Associated Press)

YouTube's announcement of YouTube Gaming, a platform created for gamers to find videos, live streams and internet personalities, shows gaming is moving from the margins to the centre, rivalling movie industry and changing how we use the internet, technology watchers say.

The app and site, launched ahead of this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo, is scheduled to debut in the U.S. and U.K. later this summer. It will feature individual pages dedicated to more than 25,000 games, from Asteroids to Zelda, where fans can easily plug into the gaming community and follow their icons.

Carmi Levy an independent technology analyst and journalist, says YouTube doesn't just want to provide basic online services. 

"It wants to fill those spaces with compelling content that gets consumers to come back for more. There's a superpower arms race currently underway online for the latest and greatest content and everybody is rushing into the gaming space to deliver the best content and engage the largest audiences."

Game profits on par with movie industry

The revenue from the games industry is now on par with the movie industry, Levy says. In 2014 gaming generated $91.5 billion, up 9.4 per cent since 2014. The industry is projected to hit $107 billion in profits by 2017

Advertisers are also aware of the profits that can be made in this industry, Levy added.

"Gamers are not sitting and passively consuming a movie or television show. They are actively part of the experience and advertisers absolutely love that level of engagement and are willing to pay a premium for it."

When YouTube was first launched people didn't see it as a real threat to television or film, says Ramona Pringle. 'And now more people watch online videos than anything else. It will be the same with streaming video games," she told CBC News. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The move by Google-owned YouTube is an offensive against Twitch, a gaming-centric streaming video site bought by Amazon last year for almost $1 billion US. While YouTube is the king of online video streaming, Twitch has built a reputation for itself as the place to access stream gameplay provided by its 1.5 million broadcasters to 100 million users each month.

Ramona Pringle an assistant professor at Ryerson University's RTA School of Media and the creator of Avatar Secrets, an interactive documentary made for iPad told CBC Radio that when YouTube was first launched people didn't see it as a real threat to television or film.

"And now more people watch online videos than anything else. It will be the same with streaming video games."

The demographics of gamers is changing from a community of young men to a much more diverse population, including more women and older players, she says.

Now over one-third of parents play games with their kids at least once a week and over one-half play at least once a month, according to the 2014 stats generated by the Entertainment Software Association.

"Gaming is growing as gamers have grown up to have gamer kids," says Pringle. "Today gaming is more of a social and family phenomenon rather than a solitary activity."

Technology pioneers

Video games are also a place where new technology is being tested and marketed, Levy said.

"If you want to know where the technology industry is headed look no further than games," he added. "That's because games require the fastest processors, the best graphics, top designers and programmers and eventually the best of everything in order to deliver lifelike game play."

Augmented reality and virtual reality technology being developed for games are dictating how we'll experience anything from movies to how we watch the news, Pringle says.

 "We are already seeing these tools enter the documentary film realm and it won't be long before it shapes how we experience the news by being able to walk into a war zone rather than just watch it on a flat screen."

The changes might be coming to alternative media outlets like Vice News first, Pringle added.

"But we will all eventually get there, and a lot of this will be thanks to innovations within the gaming industry."