The latest rumor out of Google headquarters is that the company is finalizing a deal to purchase Twitch.tv for $1 billion dollars. Acquisitions are an all too common occurrence in the tech industry, though the gaming sector has traditionally been walled off from the huge headline driving purchases that we often see in the news. In recent years though, we’ve seen a number of high profile purchases from publishers and outside investment firms, many of whom were looking to capitalize on the social media gaming boom. Examples of this are EA buying PopCap for $750+ million (not including milestone bonuses) and Zynga’s purchase of OMGPOP for $180 million.
With the news of Google’s impending purchase of Twitch.tv for at least $1 billion, what does that mean for the popular online service for the future of the service? We’ve discussed the topic in length since the rumor broke, and came up with some thoughts and concerns regarding the purchase. Prepare yourself, because our list is pretty gigantic.
YouTube branding is probably inevitable. Many of your peers are probably familiar with Twitch already, a bunch probably even signed up for an account just to play Twitch Plays Pokemon. The truth is though that Twitch has very weak brand recognition with the non-gaming public (as it should). YouTube on the other hand is almost as recognizable as a brand as Google is as a word we use to describe searching the internet. In recent years Google has made huge pushes to converge their products into more unified systems rather than individual services. Twitch is probably going to reasure you that it’s going to stay Twitch, but watch as those “Twitch – Powered by YouTube” logos start to pop up over time. There’s a chance Twitch might just become a feature rolled into YouTube at some point in the future.
Google loves integration and rebranding. Take a look at this list of mergers and acquisitions by Google from 2001 to 2014. Google has a long history of buying companies as a means of bolstering their current stable of products. For example, Grandcentral was purchased and quickly rebranded as Google Voice. Google’s recent purchases of Waze, Nest, and Timely suggest possible future plans with some seriously crazy home automation technology. It’s no secret that Google is making a major play behind closed doors to be the leader in self driving vehicles and the mapping software that guides them. Imagine a world where your fancy self driving car could integrate with the technology behind Waze, Nest, and Timely to analyze traffic patterns for your upcoming ride to work, adjust your alarm clock to ensure you wake up and arrive on time, and configure the devices in your home to be on or off according to the updated schedule. A purchase of Twitch probably won’t be that futuristic, but it’s silly to think they just bought Twitch to keep it exactly the way it is.
Google has a history of buying companies for patents alone. It’s highly unlikely this is the case for Twitch, at the same time though, Google did buy Motorola strictly for patents and then sell what remained to Lenovo. Surely Twitch has some interesting patents in their portfolio, but YouTube likely has many more. Twitch appears to gain a lot more patent wise in this deal than Google does, score one for Twitch.
Google is an advertising agency. Before anything else Google exists to sell and display ads. Most of their popular services now display some form of advertisements, some of them even comb through your private data to do it better (like Gmail). It’s probably inevitable that Twitch’s current ad network will go away and be replaced with AdWords. It’s also very likely we’ll see more and different types of ads on Twitch.
Buying ad space will be more expensive. Anyone who has worked with AdWords know that ads aren’t cheap. Buying ad space on Google’s network is usually the most expensive of your options, which is why vendors will oftentimes seek out alternative markets such as Bing or Twitch to reach out to consumers. Twitch being integrated with AdWords means an even higher demand and higher price range for ads on the network. Buying up another ad market just further solidifies Google’s position as the hands down leader in the online ad market.
Google owns a number of services that could really benefit from Twitch integration. Forget YouTube, think about what you see (and hear) when you watch a Twitch stream. You see somebody playing a game, you very often see the player via a webcam, and sometimes you also hear the music they are listening to while they play. A Google Play Music Store integration isn’t too far fetched of an idea, nor is some ads displaying for vendors that sell the current game being Streamed. You’re watching somebody play Battlefield 5 while listening to some dubstep? Here are some links below to buy Battlefield 5 at Gamestop, or you can buy and download that song straight to your Android phone, oh and also here is a link to Amazon where you can buy the webcam that streamer is using.
Streaming is going to get easier. Here’s something to be excited about, Google employs a lot of really good engineers. Anyone who has tried to configure Twitch streaming has probably also found out how difficult it can be. Depending on the software you use, getting your PC to play nice with Twitch can be a frustrating experience. The inevitable code changes will likely also bring new features and lower the technical skill needed to make it all work for Streamers.
Google owns an ISP. Google Fiber, however limited in its availability, could eventually make some serious waves in the U.S. broadband market. Twitch is set to gain a lot from having access to Google’s network infrastructure. Likewise, Google also gains additional leverage against paying fees to other service providers like Comcast to ensure reliable data delivery to the end user. Google can now more than ever just say “screw you” to ISPs looking to milk big businesses (like Netflix) for extra cash. Twitch is now also protected by an insanely powerful company with lobbyists and lawyers that can prevent that sort of bullying by ISPs. The FCC might destroy the entire internet with this net neutrality business though, so it’s all up in the air at this point.
Don’t get banned from AdSense if you want to stream! Anyone whose ever done something less than honest when it comes to Google’s business divisions knows that Google never forgives and it never forgets. If you’ve ever been a victim of (or conspired to commit) click fraud you’ll know that Google doesn’t take that lightly at all. You’ll get your Adsense account banned for life, though you’ll still have access to the rest of Google’s services. YouTubers that try to monetize too many copyrighted can lose access to AdSense forever too. There’s probably at least a few professional Twitch streamers that are banned from AdSense, those people are out of a job if Twitch adopts AdSense and AdWords.
In fact, just don’t do anything to anger Google ever. Because of how many services Google offers it’s very likely that you’ll eventually have an account with them. Getting banned from one of their services follows you for the rest of your life essentially. It’s highly unlikely, but doing something bad enough to get you a global Google network ban would also result in you losing access to a lot of stuff on your Android phone. The moral here is don’t do anything bad on Twitch because you could lose a more than just your ability to chat on Twitch.
Google+ could change everything. Google owns a number of services that aren’t highly utilized. Google Hangouts (replacing Talk) and Google+ could revolutionize the way we watch and interact with Twitch streams. Though rumors of a step back from Google+ is already underway, an integration with Twitch could transform Google+ into the largest gaming social network in the world. Additionally, Google Hangouts and some type of Android tie-in could really revolutionize the entire game streaming industry.
AdSense is not without controversy. Many of the most popular Twitch streamers make a living off what they do, but there’s also a much larger section of streamers that just use it to make some extra cash. Google is taking a lot of heat lately for the insider leak that claims Google has been stiffing AdSense members for many years, even going as far as to ban them right before payout time to pocket the money. In fact, at least one lawsuit has been filed and it’s a safe bet to expect a class action lawsuit to be forthcoming. If true, that sort of stuff is very bad news for Twitch streamers that earn a bit of cash doing what they do.
YouTube users are complete assholes and could destroy Twitch. YouTube probably has among the worst users among any major internet service, save for maybe the comments section of any national news outlet. Due largely in part to YouTube’s policies of the past allowing nicknames instead of real names, the comments for just about any video ever is horrible, cruel, and just completely foul. Connecting YouTube to Twitch could just spread the disease further and make streaming a game live a pretty terrible experience for the streamer and viewers.
Twitch benefits from and is hurt by Google’s security. Google has among the best automated and optional security systems in the world. If your Gmail gets hacked from China they usually catch it before too much damage is done, 2-step authentication is (almost) seamlessly integrated in the entire Google portfolio. As Spiderman says, “with great power comes great responsibility”. If your Twitch account gets hacked now you might lose your Twitch account, if your Twitch account gets hacked once the merger happens you could lose everything. It’s important to remember to change those passwords and setup 2-step authentication, but those tips could also apply to the entire internet.
You may not want to connect your Twitch account with Google Apps for Education and Business accounts. If you’re a college student or somebody that works in a large corporation you may already be familiar with Google Apps for Education and Business. Google sells its services to businesses and universities to use for their networks. Your university or employer may issue you an account, email@example.com for example, that works like a regular Google account and functions exactly like Gmail does. Losing access (getting expelled or fired) to these accounts is probably bad news in general, but it would also likely mean losing the Twitch account that’s tied to it.
Music copyrights are going to be crazy on Twitch now. Record a video of you dancing to a popular song, upload it to YouTube and see if you can monetize the video. Chances are Google’s automated systems are going to flag it for a copyright violation before it’s even live. Twitch is still largely the copyright wild wild west, but a merger with YouTube might also bring some very strict copyright rules along with it. It’s not crazy to envision music streaming being tied to a mandatory Google Play Music integrated system.
Google could help e-sports in a major way. YouTube is a seriously legitimate brand, they even teamed up with CNN for the U.S. presidential debates in 2012. Twitch and YouTube have been very instrumental in the rising popularity of e-sports as well. Both services teaming up could really push the whole industry to a new level. YouTube has some partnerships with the big cable networks already, it’s possible they could work out a deal to get some games on national television.
Twitch Plays could be crazy with Android integration. Google’s already has Ingress in their stable of products. They’ve also created ROLL IT, a web game that you play using an Android phone as the controller. Google isn’t opposed to creating unique games with the cool technology they make. With Google in control of so much cool tech that also happens to already be in the hands of a billion people worldwide, Twitch Plays Pokemon type games could utilize some pretty crazy features if you built an app for Android.
Google did us a huge favor, things could be way worse. After reading all of these concerns it’s easy to say we completely hate the idea of Google buying Twitch. The truth is there’s probably not other company on the planet that has more potential to take Twitch to the next level. The last thing we need is for a company like Microsoft (who was also bidding for Twitch) or Facebook to gobble up Twitch and use it as a weapon to screw over their competitors. Google probably has the least desire to be completely evil with this acquisition, and it also means Twitch in some form or another will probably live on for a very long time to come.