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article imageOp-Ed: Everyone vs Twitch — How the big players are evolving esports

By Paul Wallis     Feb 4, 2020 in Internet
Sydney - The days of gaming being “weird” have long been overtaken by pro gaming and big prizes. Twitch is the one to beat, and everyone, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, is getting involved.
This is a gigantic, and to some extent still emerging, mainstream market. Money is moving fast in all directions. There’s a good reason for that. Just about everyone’s a gamer to a degree. Twitch, owned by Amazon, was the undisputed emperor in the market, but things are definitely changing, fast.
Activision Blizzard, the makers of a huge range of dominant games including Warcraft, have just moved Overwatch off Twitch last month. They’ve signed a deal with Google’s YouTube for $90 million to migrate over to the global big reach platform. This means more exposure, easy access, and somewhat arguably a simpler, easily managed showcase for Overwatch.
Activision Blizzard is also partnering with Google Cloud, another clear directional indicator for future games and gaming platforms. You can easily see the YouTube deal creating a major asset for instant market reach.
Meanwhile, Google Stadia is gearing up for an assault on the market with no less than 120 games. That’s good news to a degree. Some deep bitching has been going on for a while about Google Stadia. On the other hand, the vast amounts of money involved means that Stadia, the current face of Google on the Cloud, is a serious future entity in planning terms.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has been glued to X Box, hasn’t merely stayed in the “appliances” market. The new Azure platform, Playfab, is a Cloud-oriented, and somewhat conspicuously developer-friendly space. Looks like Azure is going to be the default product range for gaming, which could mean bigger competition with Amazon and Google, sooner rather than later.
Does all this actually mean anything for gamers? Yes.
Mindless idealism isn’t the typical character description of regular gamers. Games come, and much more annoyingly, go. Some, like Age of Empires, return from the void to be well received. It’s a weird market. Some games are hyped to death, others don’t run and their mods are thousands of times better.
(Thanks, Hearts of Iron IV, really nice to know you care so much about your product. A constipated rock would do better than the thing I just got a refund for last month.)
Some have incredibly long lives, like Civilization and Warcraft. Some have their own mythos, like Warhammer. Total War is a huge market, with some of the pickiest and most truly enthusiastic multiplayer games ever. Point being – The big games are true monsters. There’s no lack of interest in all these corporate moves, just built-in distrust of quality.
Playing a game online equates to platform values. A game which lags, does quirky things in the middle of play, etc. is considered an occasional hazard. Just about any gamer could describe in lethal detail what’s wrong with every game they’ve ever played in terms of playability.
The moves to bigger better platforms are inevitable. Easy to manage YouTube, for example, is great for gamers, who do more to promote the games than just about anyone else. This is where it all gets interesting and a half.
Activision Blizzard is rightly calling a spade a big spade, going for the core market for real gamers and fans. This isn’t really a no-brainer move as it might seem; it’s simple, effective, and will definitely penetrate the YouTube consciousness, otherwise known as the people who actually play and buy games.
Google is the Cloud Zeus to some extent, but the lightning bolts need some tuning. It will sort itself out, and the Cloud platforms with their vast servers are exactly what global gaming needs. The “fix the bugs syndrome” is inevitable, no major deal, and Stadia is another major pointer for better, smoother gaming, i.e., more esports by the thousands.
Microsoft seems to be at the setup stage, getting ready to graft Azure gaming on to its core products. This isn’t a matter of showing up with a few games to play and a hopeful look on your face. Integrating the tech is one thing; market positioning and top quality products are the next moves. To compete with Google and Amazon, the bar has been raised quite a bit. Don’t be too surprised to see Windows Umpteen as a full package spread, locking in Azure and hardware capacity for a highly aggressive gaming market move.
You can safely assume Amazon and Twitch will be doing some upscaling to claw back market share. Exactly what that may involve could be anything, but Twitch is a critical future asset, the Amazon gearbox for gaming. Would you give up a market position like that, or let it erode way? They won’t.
Cometh the deluge... sorta, kinda. but soon
Gamers could win nicely out of this. Fixing the overall clunkiness of online gaming won’t hurt anyone. Whether you play sparkly-warkly games on Facebook on your phone or aren’t seen for years playing major epic games on a dedicated server, your gaming experience will get a lot better.
The really big deal, however, is the approaching herd of elephants in the form of next generation gaming AI. To work at all online, gaming infrastructure has to be up to speed with it. The whole sector will need top of the line, no-bull hardware and software. That’s where gamers win, and it’s coming, pretty fast.
There’s an existential irony here. Gaming is all about focus. It’s excellent for getting people to pay attention to situations, unexpected things, and of course, rage and other worthwhile occupations.
So if the entire gaming sector suddenly gets so focused…? Karma works in strange ways, but some are just plain obvious.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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