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Tech Talk

Livestream button-mashing now on YouTube


The National Football League — America’s most popular sport — loves to tout its $10 billion revenue techvalue. Between dominant television ratings and local teams stoking the flames of fandom, the NFL has nearly a perpetual motion of cash creation. Ten billion dollars is impressive, but interestingly enough, it’s puny in comparison to the king of American entertainment — videogame playing. Companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, EA, Rovio, and Sega politely smile and let out a chuckle when they click by a football game on TV, because while millions of raving football lunatics are generating $10 billion for the NFL, billions of videogame-playing zombies are shoveling $21 billion in U.S. revenue and nearly $100 billion worldwide.

When you really start to think about how football-obsessed our culture is, it’s preposterous to think that button-mashing gamers in basements across the nation are fueling the economy more than football-loving meatheads crammed into our nation’s stadiums. Even on a macroeconomics scale, gaming wins out, given that both groups support the hospitality industry and restaurant industrial complex. In the end, the real economic factor is that many NFL fans are also gamers. But the opposite isn’t necessarily true, and this overlap has established a crushing amount of gaming profits.

Another win for the gaming crowd is its unquestionable seat at the tech industry table. Since Pong was first unveiled in the 1970s, gaming has embraced technology and pushed it to exceedingly remarkable achievements. From gaming consoles to mobile gaming units to touch-screen smart devices to massive online multiplayer games, gaming has been a part of, or the instigator of, many technological innovations. Still, there have been some cases where gaming had to impatiently wait for technology to evolve to the pace of play.

Streaming media has been the biggest bat in the tech game for some time now. Whether it’s movies, TV, music or videogames, every major player has wanted a piece of the streaming action. The problem for gaming is the bandwidth required to display such bandwidth-heavy graphics, and action has required data delivery speeds that simply weren’t reliable until the last five years or so. Sure, players have been gaming online for more than a decade, but the cost to connect for higher data speeds has never been lower than it is today. So, with the final pieces in place, the tech giants have finally started jumping into the pool, and the most recent, and monstrous, splash has come from Alphabet (formerly Google).

Last month, Alphabet’s YouTube made a major gaming play, unveiling, a drastically redesigned corner of the site’s functionality fashioned specifically for gaming fans, players and live-streamers. YouTube Gaming is an intersection of gameplay and game culture where anyone with a videogame and fast web connection can share gaming activity as it happens for free. In 2014, YouTube nearly acquired Twitch, the most-respected and trafficked live gameplay streaming site. While the move seemed to make sense on paper — the biggest streaming outlet combining forces with the trendiest game streaming service — ultimately, YouTube didn’t need Twitch. Even with 15.3 million unique gaming users a month, YouTube has 193 million unique users each month. All YouTube really needed to do was beef up its livestreaming capabilities, market it smartly, and it would almost certainly be considered a serious option for gamers look to stream their play online.

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Quality versus quantity is the real debate in football versus videogame viewing. YouTube is a few short months away from being bumrushed with thousands of hours of videogame livestreams. Even with two gamers for every jock in the United States, I can think of few things more tedious than watching 10 minutes of someone playing Assassin’s Creed versus 10 minutes of football timeouts. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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