Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt, a gaming personality and eSports commentator, has hopscotched around in the past year-plus. In April, he left Machinima to rejoin his former employer, Major League Gaming, an American eSports league. But then he switched jobs again in November, heading to Google to become YouTube’s global head of gaming.
“I’m going to stay here for a little bit so we don’t have to do another interview about my ‘new’ thing,” he says.
There should be plenty for him to chew on at YouTube, which claims “hundreds of millions” of viewers for its gaming content, with 40 percent of the video site’s top 200 channels focusing on games in some capacity.
In his first interview since assuming that role, Wyatt sat down with Re/code to discuss some of the big issues on his plate, including making it easier to make videos, competing with Twitch, and finding the middle ground between YouTube’s dual constituencies of game publishers and video creators.
This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Re/code: Part of your job is building relationships with video game publishers. Are they thinking about video as part of their game design processes?
Ryan Wyatt: Yeah, like Grand Theft Auto just put out that tool that lets editors create content and put it out to YouTube easier. I think they realize there’s a great marketing vehicle behind all this content that’s being created around the games, and they want to figure out how to be a part of it. Even mobile games, especially in Australia and Japan, are looking at video content as ways to market and grow their game.
Are phones and tablets capable enough to broadcast gameplay like a console or PC might?
If you’re asking purely, “Is the hardware there?” It’s absolutely there. If you look at Japan, some of the top games in watch time — Monster Strike, Puzzle and Dragons, those mobile games are in the top five. It’s pretty crazy. Knowing that 50 percent of our content is consumed on mobile, and that more people are playing mobile games every day, we need to have a long-term plan: How do we make mobile content easier?
What about on the eSports side? How much are you focusing on that these days?
It’s really interesting. In a lot of ways, it’s still nascent, but in a lot of ways it’s starting to mature and grow into something much bigger. I think we can do better and do more to empower eSports creators on our platform. There’s no doubt that we need to do more with eSports, and we’re going to.
It’s been possible to stream live events on YouTube for a while, but are there specific tools for those eSports creators?
Well, not just for eSports. I think we can do more and will do more with the live product, and that doesn’t just impact gaming. That impacts all verticals that utilize it — news, sports and so forth.
Twitch likes to say its live chat is just as important as the gaming videos it hosts. How significant are YouTube’s comments?
To Twitch’s point, absolutely. The big thing you have to work on is: How do you make sure creators and fans can constantly engage in the most intimate possible way? When we look at live chat in particular, it can’t just be the comment system that you know today. The way you interact in VOD [video-on-demand] is very different from how you interact when a broadcast is live. That’s really critical, to be able to engage.
So, what’s the immediate next step in live gaming streaming?
In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing 60 frames per second for live and HTML5 for live, so we’ve got a really good infrastructure in place. We’re reducing latency constantly. The big thing we’re working on is engagement via chat, and discoverability. How do we surface live content in a world that’s inherently VOD? I think we have the most [unusual] challenges around live because of our size. We have hundreds of millions of people logged in, consuming gaming content. I think it’s always going to be about VOD, but how do you then incorporate live into this product?
Outside of live and eSports, what’s the biggest gaming thing on YouTube right now?
Let’s Plays are still huge. People like going down the rabbit-hole, viewing games through another person’s lens. But we’re seeing higher-quality, produced video content now, as well. At the surface level, PewDiePie might just be playing a game and having fun, but you’re seeing production — funniest moment montages and so forth.
What about the ease of making videos, even if it’s only for your friends? A coworker recently asked me, on behalf of her son, what the best video capture card for his Nintendo 3DS would be, and I had no clue.
That’s hard. Capturing for the 3DS is difficult, capturing for mobile is difficult. What can we do to make streaming and capture easier? That, in my mind, will always be a core foundation of YouTube. Even though we’re doing highly produced stuff like Video Game High School, I don’t think we will ever abandon the idea of the simplest person being able to go on and broadcast and share. I think it’s ingrained in the culture.
Some publishers, Nintendo among them, have set restrictions on what games people can make videos of. If one of your creators wants to make a video of Super Smash Bros. and Nintendo says no, is it just, “Sorry, find another game?”
We’re focused as a platform. Ultimately, [it is each] publisher’s decision if they want to tap into monetization from a creator and so forth. I believe a lot of publishers understand the incredible marketing value that they get from creators making compelling, amazing content around their games. At the same time, Nintendo is creating avenues that they can still claim monetization and work with the Nintendo Creators’ Program.
We do try to make sure that conversation is beneficial to both parties, but at the end of the day, if that’s what Nintendo or a publisher wants to do, that’s their decision. And I think we’ve seen a lot of interesting feedback from the creators about that decision. We have to support both the publisher and the creator on things like this.
So what can you, as the platform in the middle, say to a publisher that’s nervous about losing control of its games if people make videos from them?
There’s a direct correlation between watch time on YouTube and sales of games, especially pre-sales. To be honest with you, not a lot are pushing on this because they understand the fallout if they decide to take creators’ money and the importance of working collaboratively with content creators. I don’t have to spend a lot of time painting the picture. What I do want to help them with is getting the right data that helps them make informed decisions.
YouTube recently put out the ability to upload and view 360-degree videos. Are you thinking about those sorts of videos, maybe for virtual reality games?
There is a separate team that works on all that. That said, I think VR as a technology is remarkable, and I think it’s ahead of its time. The gaming team, my team, is very focused on how we can use the stuff that that team’s creating with gaming content. I actually watched a video last night of someone playing Grand Theft Auto in VR [using an unofficial “mod”], and they got sick because of it. I’ll be interested [to see], as publishers start to design games for VR, what kind of content gets created.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.