App Review: YouTube Gaming
Yesterday saw the release of Google’s new addition to the global video site YouTube, YouTube Gaming. Being brought to you by the makers of Android, it of course comes with an app which we have taken an in-depth look at for you.
Firstly, what is YouTube Gaming? Well, not only does it let you keep up-to-date with your favourite gaming channels from YouTube, it also allows you to follow your favourite video games and suggest videos featuring them. But, its key feature is one that Twitch TV has dominated for years, Live Streaming. YouTubers can now stream directly from their channels, and therefore directly to their fanbase.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that the tablet, phone and web version of the app differ slightly. This article will focus mainly on the phone version.
Home Screen and Navigation
When you open the app you are presented with a home screen that is reminiscent of the YouTube app home screen, but with a few unique features. The first of these is obvious, underneath the search bar there’s a scrolling banner feed. This advertises current popular livestreams and videos featuring games or channels you like. However, my favourite part of this feature is that it previews the item that is currently selected, without playing sound.
Much like YouTube, YouTube Gaming has a home feed of recommended videos. However, in YouTube Gaming it is more differentiated and has more navigation options. The feed is separated between livestreams, channel videos and game videos. Each of these comes with a heading banner that navigates to a feed list featuring that specific section.
You may have noticed that we have mentioned navigating via games. This is because YouTube Gaming allows you to search for videos via the game they feature. You can also ‘subscribe’ to games to get certain games featured more on you feed. Each game has its own homepage where you can find information on said game, as well as videos containing it. You can also separate the videos shown on the game homepage by whether they are live or feature YouTubers you are subscribed to.
Of course the biggest feature for YouTube Gaming is its livestream capabilities. For years if YouTubers wanted to do a live show they had to go to Twitch TV, but now they can do it through YouTube. However, how does it hold up against the current champion of livestream?
As it turns out, rather well. Much like with Twitch, there is a chat feature that allows you to communicate with the channel and other people watching the stream. However, much like Twitch, the traffic is often so heavy that you don’t have time to read a message before it’s gone. YouTube Gaming also gives details of the stream being watched, including how many people are watching and links to the channels featured in the stream.
YouTube Gaming’s biggest advantage, as far as live streaming is concerned, is the ability to pause live streams and watch them on delay. This is something that you cannot do on Twitch and some other streaming sites.
Odds and Ends
There are a few little features that make the app run a lot smoother and make it easier to use. For example, instead of searching through channels to add ones you’re already subscribed to on YouTube, you can simply import them from YouTube. This also works the other way round. If there are any channels you are subscribed to on YouTube, but you don’t want them showing up on YouTube Gaming, you can un-star them. Also, when you bring up a game page or channel profile, you can exit back to the home screen by pressing the X in the left corner.
As it is an extension of YouTube, the video options are the same and the swipe controls to close videos have also been carried across. It is also screencast compatible, as you would expect from a Google product.
If you are on the table version of the app the main difference is the home screen navigation. Instead of having three sections (Feed, Channels, Games), It only has the Feed section. Instead, the Channels and Games appear as watermark overlays at the right and left sides of the screen respectively
Bugs and Bad Bits
Now no app is perfect, especially when just released, so here I will outline the main bugs and problems that I found.
First of all, and this was kind of expected, there are still ads. This is YouTube after all. Now this would not usually be too much of a problem, as you can just install an adblocker and it will be fine. However, if you try running a live stream with the ad blocker running, you may experience problems loading and more lag than usual.
Secondly, when ran on one of my test devices, a Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini running Android 4.1.2 Jellybean, it had difficulty loading some of the live streams, but not others. So if any of you are on dated devices or software, you may also experience similar problems.
As far as frame skips are concerned, it ran pretty smoothly for the most part. However, when watching live streams frame drops were common and occasionally the app came close to stuttering for extended periods of time. Although, you can argue that this is expected due to the GPU demands of live streaming.
Exploring YouTube Gaming
All in all, the new YouTube Gaming app is very user-friendly and contains plenty of ways to narrow down the video experience you want. It gives fans easier access to live shows of their favourite YouTubers, and allows seamless navigation between live and prerecorded videos. Twitch may need to watch out, because the king of the video world has just gone live.
Do like Youtube Gaming? Can it compete with Twitch? Let us know your opinion in the comments!