Twitch vs YouTube Gaming vs Microsoft Mixer: which streaming service is for you?

Twitch

  • Pros: Large audience means it's easier to grow a following, good chat moderation, bringing in new ways to monetize content, can stream straight from both Xbox One, PS4, and mobile.
  • Cons: Can be easy to get lost as a new streamer, no real-time DVR

What is it?

Twitch is the live streaming platform owned by Amazon and it's been around since 2011. It's the biggest and oldest service on here, boasting around 10 million daily active users.  

Here you'll find everything from walkthroughs, to tips and tricks and cosplay tutorials. Most large gaming events and companies have dedicated Twitch channels and you'll find it's the place to watch official events. 

Is it easy to discover new things?

Twitch’s UI is fairly neat and it’s easy to find your way around the site. Big names are featured at the top of the home page, and you can also find streams broadcasting live at that moment by game, console, and channel. And, of course, there’s a search bar if you’re looking for something more specific. 

The community is so large and diverse that you're likely to find a new channel every day and perhaps even a new interest/title. 

Twitch has made some changes that should make the service more easy to maneuver for those interested in Blizzard's Overwatch and Hearthstone. 

With Overwatch it'll now be possible to filter streams by Hero. This means that if you have a favorite Hero, you'll be able to find streams starring them much more quickly.

For Hearthstone on the other hand, it's now possible to filter games by game mode, player rank, number of wins and hero class. If you're only interested in getting tips to improve specific Hearthstone skills, this is perfect for you. 

The technology that makes this possible has come to Twitch thanks to its recent acquisition of ClipMine which uses machine learning and computer vision to identify what's on player screens. 

Is it easy to be discovered as a streamer?

Twitch is a funny one. Being so filled with well-established streamers and newbies it can be hard to get your foot on the first rung and get noticed. However, once you do start building something the potential for growth is much higher than on YouTube Gaming purely because there are so many more people watching and looking for gaming content. 

If you already have an established presence on YouTube, you may find it more rewarding to stream via YouTube Gaming rather than try to move all of your fans over to Twitch. But if you’re starting out fresh, Twitch is probably the service with the most potential if you're willing to push hard.  

How's the viewing experience?

Twitch offers a good viewing experience and the area around the video player isn’t too cluttered – you just have the chat off to the right and you can hide that if it becomes too distracting. 

You can watch on Roku, Chromecast, FireTV, on Xbox, PS4, PC and mobile. 

Something that’s a nice touch is that the video you’re watching is pulled into a smaller window when you decide to explore for something else to watch, meaning you don’t have to miss anything from the stream you’re currently watching. For some reason this is something YouTube does on its mobile app but not online. You also have control over what quality you watch the video in. 

Twitch's mobile app has recently had an update that makes it more pleasant to use and brings it more in line with the desktop experience – you might find yourself watching more on mobile than you have before. 

The Pulse discovery feed and the notification center are now in the app and the interface improvements mean it'll be easier to find and use these features. Swipe-based controls have improved navigation across the app and dark mode will be ideal for when you're watching in the evening.

If you prefer watching on your PC you can do so on the web or through Twitch's recently created desktop app for Windows and PC. This app offers all of the features you can get through Twitch on the web but adds exclusive features too. 

If you opt for the Twitch desktop app you'll find mobile app features such as Dark Mode, which should make those night time viewing sessions a little easier on your eyes.  

Something it’s lacking, though, is DVR capabilities. Although you can pause a stream you’ll still miss things from it as when you play again it jumps straight to the present rather than catching up. If you miss something in a stream you have to wait for it to be archived before you can go back through it. 

How's the streaming experience?

Streaming on Twitch is much the same as on YouTube Gaming. It’s possible through console apps and PC. 

A recent update to the mobile app has brought Twitch's app much more in line with YouTube Gaming by making it possible to stream directly from iOS and Android devices. Add in the fact that you can stream directly from your Xbox One to Twitch (which you can't do on YouTube Gaming) and Twitch certainly looks like the more egalitarian service from a streaming perspective. 

The service is able to tell you how well your internet connection is performing and what quality you’re able to stream in and will adjust automatically meaning there’s very little for you to worry about other than being entertaining. 

What's the community and chat like?

Chat moderation is pretty good on Twitch. It uses a tool called AutoMod which combines machine learning and natural language processing to identify messages that are inappropriate and will either block them entirely or flag them for later human moderation.  

Streamers are also able to ban specific words links and phrases from appearing in their stream chats as well as employ community moderators or limit chat accessibility to their subscribers. There are also official support staff available 24 hours a day. 

In its desktop app, Twitch has added text and voice chat rooms that remain accessible even when servers are down so you never need to worry about not being able to engage with your favorite communities. It's also possible to do voice and video calling with friends and overlay these private calls into your games so you don't have to switch between tabs. 

It's also attempting to solve the problem of overcrowded chats on its videos by introducing a new feature called Rooms. Before this, chats on streams were held in single channels. If you've ever been on a busy Twitch stream, you'll have seen the chaos that could arise – between abuse, questions, compliments and several conversations taking place at one it could be hard to keep track. Rooms splits the chat stream into individual, well, rooms.

Streamers are able to open rooms on their chats and invite people into them which should make things easier to manage. 

Can I monetize my content?

Once your channel is relatively successful your largest amount of money is likely to come from securing sponsorship deals. You'll find opportunities to partner with big gaming brands and publishers, work with them to make sponsored content whether that's incorporating their products into your videos in some way or having a full video centered around them. 

Before you get there, though, you have to start small.

Like YouTube Gaming, Twitch has a partner program that allows streamers to make money from ads. There are no hard and fast numbered requirements when it comes to becoming a partner and applications are determined on a case by case basis. The ad revenue is generally similar to YouTube Gaming’s though the overall revenue of Twitch streamers is generally higher than for those who use YouTube Gaming.

Twitch users who have achieved partner status can also make money from paid subscriptions and merchandise. With subscriptions, users choose to pay between $4.99 and $24.99 to have more access to their favorite streamers, with higher subscription fees naturally bringing bigger perks.

Merchandise sales is an interesting one. Twitch has partnered with an apparel company and if you'd like to start selling your channel's brand you can post an image of a branded T-shirt or hoodie to your channel dashboard. If someone chooses to buy one the apparel company handles everything from selling to manufacturing to shipping and you make the largest amount of the profit. 

The new affiliate program offers an easier way to make money for those just starting out and haven't reached partner levels but whose channels look promising. The threshold to access this is much lower and at the moment the money-making opportunity only takes the form of something called Bits to Cheer.

This allows viewers to pay to offer support in a streamer’s chat with the streamer getting a share of the revenue, though it's also possible to make a channel subscription-only. The affiliate program will expand in future and it looks like Twitch will soon be the streaming site of choice for those hoping to make money from live streaming. 

A recent update has made it easier to track how close you are to getting paid and streamline tasks that once required chatbots or third-party streaming software.

Now, for example, there are unlockable achievements which tell you how close you are to meeting the requirements for becoming an affiliate or partner. These will be presented in a summary after ever stream alongside data which will be key in helping you to grow your audience such as where your traffic is coming from and when it peaks.