Welcome to Last Month in Streaming. This series covers the Platform Wars — Twitch vs YouTube Gaming vs Facebook Gaming. It recaps all the biggest highlights from the previous month. Major updates, rumors, analytics and creator signings… Everything in one place, so you can stay up to date.
In this October 2021 edition we cover the latest Twitch drama, including data leaks and pay-to-win boosts. Meanwhile, YouTube dropped a bombshell announcement, sharing some major changes on the horizon — including gifted memberships. Facebook Gaming continues to pull numbers, rolling out a new co-streaming feature. We also learned the fate of top creators like NICKMERCS, Ninja and more.
Let’s start with a quick recap.
October 2021 Recap
- NICKMERCS re-signs with Twitch, despite YouTube courting
- Massive data breach leaks platform source code and creator payouts
- New Paid Boost feature begins live testing, reigniting pay-to-win outcry
- New chat feature highlights first-time channel visitors
- Stream rewind button begins testing for select users
- Dedicated analytics for channel emotes, featuring in-depth data filters
- Top creator Valkyrae hints that YouTube is looking to sign more streamers
- Ninja announces a full-time return to YouTube VOD content
- Gifted Memberships are coming sometime in 2022
- New raid feature, known as Live Redirect, coming soon
- New to You feature allows creators to reach new audiences via suggested videos
- Clips and Shorts will be getting a major update in 2022
- Co-streaming is launched, allowing creators to share broadcasts and viewers
- Facebook Gaming overtakes YouTube Gaming in hours watched, according to new data
- Facebook’s Meta rebrand leaves gamers with lots of questions
- Popular GTA RP streamer RatedEpicz signs exclusivity deal, leaving Twitch
- Raiding improvements for Partnered creators
- Enhanced clip creation for mobile viewers
October was a month of highs and lows for Twitch. For one, the platform retained one of its top creators, NICKMERCS — despite the efforts of rival YouTube Gaming. Twitch also added a number of fantastic micro-updates, including First-Time Chatter Highlight, stream rewind and emote analytics.
However, the platform took two serious blows. First, an enormous data breach turned into a PR disaster — even if the damage done was minimal. Then, Twitch began testing its Paid Boost feature, despite widespread community outcry and negative press.
Despite welcome platform improvements, Twitch continues to stumble — while its competitors make major strides forward. It’s a worrying trend that has even diehard Twitch fans second-guessing.
Let’s explore some of this month’s highlights.
NICKMERCS is staying with Twitch
Early in October, Twitch received good news. NICKMERCS—one of the most-followed streamers in the world—would be extending his Twitch contract. This came after months of rumors that YouTube Gaming was trying to lure him away from the platform.
The deal means that moving forward, all NICKMERCS livestreams are exclusive to Twitch. His VOD content will continue to live on YouTube, where he has over four million subscribers.
It’s a welcome relief for the struggling platform, which lost top creators TimTheTatman and DrLupo to YouTube earlier this year. To lose another would have been a devastating PR blow.
Will the contract end up working in Twitch’s favor? They may have secured one of their top talents, but at what price? The deal amount was not disclosed, but Twitch likely paid a hefty sum — especially with YouTube bidding negotiations up all the while. Does that just free up YouTube to take their cash elsewhere and pursue new streamers? If that’s the case, can Twitch compete now that they’ve emptied the vaults for NICKMERCS?
Something tells us we’ll have an answer soon.
Data breach drama
On October 6th, an anonymous 4chan user posted over 100GB of Twitch data. The files contained part of the platform’s source code repository, plus creator payout data. Twitch later confirmed the breach, saying it was due to a configuration change error.
After an investigation, Twitch reassured users that no login information, nor ACH/banking or credit card details were leaked. However, out of caution, the platform reset all stream keys — requiring creators to reconnect their OBS broadcast software.
While the damage was small, it was an embarrassing PR incident for a platform on the ropes.
In the aftermath, focus shifted to the creator payout leak. Data showed how much each streamer had earned from subscriptions, bits and ad revenue. Creators began comparing their rankings on-air, leading to some humorous exchanges.
Paid Boost begins testing
Back in late September, rumors of a new Paid Boost feature spread uproar in the Twitch community. Almost universally, creators bashed it for promoting a pay-to-win culture — among other things. The backlash was so severe that few expected the feature to ever go live.
Well it did, but only for a very small sub-selection of creators. In late October, we got to see the feature in action. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- Only available to around 100 US-based streamers right now, for testing
- Viewers pay to get a channel “boosted” to the front page of Twitch
- Each boost guarantees a certain number of impressions (not viewers*)
- For example, a $0.99 boost gets 1,000 impressions. A $2.97 boost earns 3,000 impressions
- Boost income goes 100% to Twitch, streamers only receive impressions
- Streamers are allowed to boost their own channels
- The feature is not available to large creators, only small- and mid-sized
*Importantly, impressions do not equal viewers. Only a small percentage of impressions lead to actual viewers. Just because someone sees your livestream on the front page doesn’t mean they’ll click through to watch.
There have been many arguments against Paid Boosts; you can read some of them here. Regardless, the feature is live — albeit only as a limited test.
Will it be greenlit for the remainder of Twitch streamers? We doubt it, considering the enormous backlash the feature has received. But then again, few expected it to ever get this far into testing! Perhaps Twitch is seeing something in the data that we’re not. Or maybe they’re just desperate for extra revenue.
Interestingly, Twitch is experimenting with a non-paid Boost variation, using only Channel Points. While Boost this Stream was originally proposed in December of 2020, it’s still in the experimentation phase today. That feature has been greeted with a warmer—if somewhat skeptical—response.
Regardless, both boost variations highlight serious flaws in the Twitch ecosystem. Getting discovered is practically impossible for small and medium creators. Boosts are a band-aid fix to the problem, and may end up hurting more than helping. To really resolve the discoverability conundrum, Twitch will need to develop something much, much bigger.
First-time chatter highlight
Making a good first impression is so crucial to building a community. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily identify and welcome newcomers to your channel? Now you can, thanks to a new Twitch feature called First-Time Chatter Highlight.
Now, any time a new user enters your chat, their first message will feature a special, eye-catching display. That way you can spot newbies at a quick glance — and introduce them to your audience!
The update went live mid-October for all creators, regardless of size or status. First-Time Chatter Highlight is only visible to you, the streamer, and your mods. It can be seen in Stream Manager and Mod View, but not by your viewers. And if you’d like to toggle it off, you can from Chat Settings.
This is a small, but super-cool addition. A proper welcome can keep new viewers coming back — and encourage them to chat more! Not to mention, the feature allows your mods to quickly spot potential trolls or malicious bots and take action.
Rewind a stream
Some viewers may have noticed three new buttons underneath broadcasts. These buttons include:
- Rewind the Stream: Jumps you back two minutes in the broadcast
- Remind Me: To get alerts for a channel’s future streams
- Watch Trailer: Plays the channel’s intro video / trailer
Of the three, rewind is by far the most exciting. Once clicked, you’ll be able to see both VOD and livestream thanks to a picture-in-picture display. This allows you to go back and catch something you missed — then return to the live action. A solid quality of life improvement.
These buttons are part of a one-month test, only available to around a quarter of viewers. After the test, they will disappear — but their data will inform upcoming features. That means we could see a permanent rewind button in the new future!
Early in October, Twitch announced the release of dedicated emote analytics. That means you can see which of your emotes are used most! You can also identify weak emote performers—and consider replacing them with new designs.
You can access this new tool by visiting Channel Analytics from your Dashboard. Inside, you can filter by emote type — like subscriber and follower emotes (which were released earlier this year), or static vs animated emotes. You can even count how many times your emotes have been used across Twitch, not just in your chat!
More analytics is always a good thing. This latest addition is a welcome buff to an already powerful analytics studio.
A few other items surfaced in October that are worth mentioning:
- Tags no longer disappear: Sick of having to reapply your content tags every time you take a few-day break from streaming? Well good news, Twitch has removed the 72-hour expiration period. Now your tags will remain until you change or remove them.
- Twitch Soundtrack adds browser-mode: Do you use Twitch Soundtrack to manage your stream music? You can now choose between the original app and a new browser webplayer. We have our own reservations about Twitch Soundtrack, but why not try it out for yourself?
- New badges for artists: Twitch has begun testing a special badge for emote artists. According to rumors, the badge can be manually-assigned by streamers to identify their channel artists. Insider Zach Bussey predicts the badge will work similar to VIP badges, and could eventually expand beyond emotes alone.
- Temporary ad revenue boost: From now through the holidays, Twitch is increasing ad payouts for Affiliates and Partners. To qualify, creators must use the Ads Manager Tool and roll more than two minutes of ads per hour. In return, Affiliates will earn double the ad revenue, while partners earn 2.5X.
September ended with a bang for the YouTube crew. Creators scored a major win with OBS Studio’s 27.1 update, which introduced YouTube integration for the first time.
But October was starting to look like a quiet month. After all, YouTube had lost a shot at NICKMERCS, who had chosen to re-sign with Twitch. As the weeks passed by, broadcasters were growing impatient for news.
Then Ryan Wyatt—aka Fwiz, Managing Director of YouTube Gaming—dropped a bombshell announcement.
In the video and accompanying blog post, he outlined a number of new features that would be coming to YouTube soon. Among them are gifted memberships, a raiding feature, and new ways for streamers to integrate Shorts into their content. Fwiz ended by promising 2022 would be the platform’s biggest year yet, by far.
That said, let’s dig a bit deeper into this month’s YouTube highlights.
Valkyrae drops a hint
Early in October, Valkyrae—one of the platform’s biggest creators—hinted that YouTube was looking to lure more streamers away from Twitch.
A former Twitch streamer herself, Rae is a close confidant of YouTube Gaming leadership. She is often one of the first to know of upcoming features and announcements.
Interestingly, the tweet came just a day after news that NICKMERCS would stay on Twitch. Perhaps this was YouTube’s way of telling their rival, “We won’t be defeated that easily!” After all, only a few short months ago YouTube acquired both TimTheTatman and DrLupo, two of Twitch’s most prolific creators.
If the rumors are true, Twitch spent a small fortune reacquiring NICKMERCS. That frees up a lot of cash for Team YouTube. Who could be their next target? Maybe an OG creator like Summit1g or Lirik?
New to You goes live
Later in the month, YouTube announced a new feature to get creators discovered. Now, viewers will see a tab on the YouTube homepage called New to You. This tab goes beyond your typical recommended videos, highlighting new creators and new content based on the viewer’s interests.
It’s another step in the right direction for discoverability — something Twitch continues to struggle with. New to You helps keep suggested videos fresh, while allowing creators to reach new audiences.
The feature is now live on mobile, desktop and TV devices. Get in and try it out!
Ninja doubles down on VOD content
Late in October, Ninja had a surprise announcement. He would make a full-time return to YouTube VOD content. His channel—with its 24 million subscribers—would commit to five new videos every week, including one IRL vlog.
The original Tweet sparked excitement and confusion. For some, the wording sounded like Ninja had just signed a streaming deal with YouTube. For those in-the-know however, this was impossible — Ninja had signed a multi-year contract with Twitch in 2020. What was going on?
Eventually, the Tweet was removed and Ninja clarified — his daily Twitch livestreams would continue as usual. The goal was just to announce a renewed focus on offline VOD content. (Whether the Tweet was taken down due to protests from Twitch is unconfirmed).
Either way, the announcement drives home YouTube’s importance — and the limits of Twitch contracts. Today, VOD content is a critical cog in any creator’s growth. YouTube videos offer unparalleled reach, discoverability and monetization — and Twitch has nothing that can compete. Even a world-famous creator like Ninja recognizes this, regardless of his multi-million-dollar Twitch contract.
The whole incident shows that YouTube is a force to be reckoned with. The platform is here to stay… and Twitch will have to deal with it until (or if) it can figure out a VOD system of its own.
Gifted Members coming in 2022
About time. If there’s any feature YouTube livestreamers have been waiting for most, it’s gifted memberships. It’s easily the #1 request from creators — and an obvious gap in YouTube’s monetization toolbelt. After all, even Facebook Gaming has had gifted subs for over a year!
The good news is it’s on the way. The bad news is you’ll have to wait until 2022. In his roadmap, Fwiz didn’t set a specific release date — nor even a release quarter.
That has us a bit anxious, but optimistic nonetheless.
YouTube raids coming soon
Another item on Fwiz’s agenda was the upcoming release of Live Redirect. Unlike Twitch and Facebook Gaming, YouTube doesn’t yet have a raid feature. This would provide that, allowing creators to send viewers onwards to other streamers when their broadcast ends.
There was no clarification as to how Live Redirect would work. Will there be a list of suggested streamers to choose from? Can you search manually for channels? Or will there be some new features that take things a step further?
We’ll have to wait and see to find out. Fwiz didn’t give an ETA, but he did suggest the feature was further along than gifted memberships. That could suggest a holiday launch, or even Q1 2022.
Enhanced clips and Shorts
YouTube also has big plans to improve clips and Shorts, the platform’s short-form video content. In fact, of all the upgrades coming, Fwiz seemed most excited for Shorts. It’s clear the platform is doubling down on short-form content, partly inspired by TikTok’s success. So much so that it recently invested $100 million into a new YouTube Shorts Fund.
Soon, clips will be a lot more discoverable. Creators will be able to take viewer clips and—quickly and easily—drop them into Shorts. Not only that, they can also monetize them!
YouTube creators stand to benefit from both. Shorts and clip integration offer enhanced discoverability and reach — not to mention monetization opportunities.
As for when all that will be possible, we still don’t know. Sometime in 2022. In our opinion, it can’t come soon enough.
It was a productive month for Facebook Gaming. No, the team didn’t drop any bombshell announcements. But they did release a long-requested feature, co-streaming. They also quietly signed another top GTA RP streamer.
More and more, western creators are looking at Facebook Gaming in a new, more serious light. The data certainly seems to be showing that fact.
So let’s catch up on all last month’s biggest news.
The platform’s biggest news is the launch of co-streaming. The feature became available to all creators early in the month. It allows them to team up and stream with up to three others. Now, viewers can watch an entire squad from a single window. They can also quickly and easily swap between perspectives as needed. That means no more manually switching between channels and browser tabs — or having to use shoddy third-party tools.
It’s a step in the right direction towards better discoverability. By sharing viewers, creators can boost each other’s audience. It also fosters a tighter-knit community, incentivizing creator cooperation. Not to mention the obvious benefits for viewer experience.
It remains to be seen how widely-adopted the feature will become. Especially since Twitch’s Squad Stream—a very similar feature—has been less than successful. After its release in 2019, the feature has been largely ignored by Partners — and all but abandoned by Twitch devs. Ironically, the community that could benefit the most from squad streaming, Affiliates, never received access.
By opening co-streaming to all creators, regardless of their size, Facebook may have changed the game. After all, Twitch wasn’t the first platform to introduce co-op streaming. Mixer’s co-stream feature was incredibly popular, and it too was available for all creators. Could the same thing happen on Facebook Gaming?
Promising new data
The latest quarterly report from Stream Hatchet and Streamlabs has published. Inside, it shows how—for the first time ever—Facebook surpassed YouTube Gaming in hours watched during Q3’21.
Hours watched refers to the total hours of gaming content watched by viewers. An increase either means viewers are watching longer or more viewers are tuning in — or a combination of the two! And that’s great news for Facebook creators looking to build a large, engaged audience. It’s also a promising sign for streamers considering a change from Twitch to Facebook Gaming.
So what should we make of this data? There’s no denying Facebook Gaming’s growth trajectory is impressive. The platform has been steadily siphoning market share from its competitors. With YouTube making enormous investments into its live business, the two platforms are poised to challenge Twitch like never before.
A new Meta
In late October, Facebook dropped a bombshell announcement. Its name would be changing to Meta. Gamers were left scrambling. How would the rebrand affect Facebook Gaming?
The answer, not much at all.
Facebook the social platform will live on with its original name. That means Facebook Gaming will remain Facebook Gaming. Its parent company—the monolithic tech giant—will now be known as Meta.
If anything, the name shows Facebook is doubling down on its high-tech products. That includes gaming, VR, blockchain development and more.
RatedEpicz joins Facebook Gaming
Another major GTA RP broadcaster made the switch from Twitch to Facebook Gaming. After weeks of rumors, RatedEpicz announced his new home on October 8th.
He joins fellow GTA RP stars LordKebun, Vader and JoblessGarrett.
Will Facebook continue to corner the English-speaking GTA V community? Could ShotZ or Ramee—two other prolific creators—be next? And, perhaps more importantly, will their audiences follow them?
Something tells us this won’t be the end of Twitch’s GTA RP exodus.
Platform devs announced a number of additional updates in their monthly blog series. Some of the more notable include:
- Enhanced raiding: The next time you end a stream, you’ll see an improved list of suggested streamers to raid. Your raid searches will produce better results too. Now it’s easier than ever to send your viewers to friends and related creators.
- Better mobile clips: Now your mobile viewers can create better stream clips! IOS and Android users will unlock new trim and preview clip options. This is similar to how mobile clips work on Twitch and YouTube Live.
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