Listen, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big user of the Youtube platform. Sure it is flawed, and it’s run by its mega super corp overlords GOOGLE, the same people who thought Stadia has a good business model. But Youtube is iconic, has been around forever, and it feels like to me and others as the “official” place to go for a lot of things. Confession time, have you ever been scrolling instagram or twitter, and saw that a new trailer or music video that you’re excited about is now available, and instead of watching the embedded video there, leaving the app just to go search for it on Youtube? Well, I have! If I want to experience the best version for the first time I know it will be on youtube. I don’t trust the crappy compressed version on say, Instagram or Twitter. We trust Youtube to give us those pretty trailers.
AND then there’s Youtube Live, or the fact that Youtube streaming exists and just sucks.
(The direct upload 4k 60 'not totally awful" version)
Youtube proved once and for all during Xbox’s presentation, especially during the critical Halo Infinite gameplay reveal, that it is failing as the platform for these massive gaming events, failing during an era it could have solidified itself as the platform for this during a pandemic that has cancelled so many IRL gaming events. I’m at the point where I just want to tell these gaming companies to STOP LIVE STREAMING this garbage.
Allow me to explain, while I don’t claim to be an expert on video streaming technology, I know enough and I also have eyes.
Xbox is recieving some backlash at the quality of Halo Infinite. I spoke briefly about my disappointment in my recap of the event. The game’s art style looks old and backwards, and the graphics look unspectacular. I saw funny comparisons between the character helping Chief in this trailer and Joel from the Last of Us 2. I don't expect the same, but damn is it sad. The textures and lightning look flat, and honestly my worst fears as to why Xbox has kept their golden goose behind closed doors for years may finally be coming to light. However, while all of the internet attention is being directed at Xbox and Halo, I think some of that hate should be going towards Youtube. Because while the game has it’s issues, it doesn’t help that is was first shown to us in probably the worst game reveal stream since Borderlands 3!
I just don’t understand why Youtube is so bad at live streaming. How hard is it to stream a video? Netflix has been doing it for how long now? Some of these including this event don't even have the excuse of being true “live events” their just pre-recorded videos being broadcasted live. These pre made videos have NO EXCUSE to look any less than a 4K stream of your favorite film or show on Netflix. There’s no input, no delay for live gaming, these are just videos. Despite this, This Halo reveal was plague by awful frame rate drops (that groundhog was teleporting all over the place!), lag, low resolution, checkerboarding (the weird “squares” that show up on screen due to garbage stream compression). Now don’t anyone think the first thing I did wasn’t to check comments and everyone else to make sure it wasn’t me. I have fast internet that can handle twitch streaming and 4k Netflix, Youtube has zero excuse for garbage 1080p.
This keeps happening each summer gaming event this year, and even last. I remember sitting last year being disgusted at just how ugly EAPlay 2019 was during its live stream. Even when these streams are getting the internet speeds you need for a pathetic 1080p 30 fps video, they are plaged by compression and checkerboarding. Why can I successfully re-watch Game of Thrones in 4K during this pandemic but a simple pre-recorded 1080 30 video on Youtube is “too hard” for Google?
What I don’t understand is more gaming companies don’t see how much this is only hurting them. One of the biggest selling points of next gen consoles is the visuals, these games running at 4K 60 fps, with all these beautiful new effects like ray tracing. And yet so many times, the first glimpses we are seeing of these games are ugly compressed videos that destroy all of those things. Why did Ubisoft say ahead of time that their stream was being broadcast in 1080 30 to achieve a good stream for all? Youtube has a “auto” feature for that exact reason! The worst offense of blindness towards what the video "should be" and them forgetting they are broadcasting these in garbage stream quality, is the Ori and the Will of the Wisps "Series X update trailer" There's literally a side by side showing the game in 60fsp and 120fps... contained in a stream that was struggling to reach 30. I remember thinking, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Do they not realize they are broadcasting to the masses that may not understand this tech, a identical side by side with the message, the one on the right is "better". If gaming companies aren't careful, the consumer might start to think, "next-gen looks the same".
This Xbox event just showcases how live streaming these awful versions of events, instead of just direct uploading them in 4k 60 the first time is a massive mistake. What is the benefit of the live stream anyways? Xbox put their biggest news at the beginning anyways, and at least Halo Infinite looks a little better on the VOD version, but the damage was done. You can only see a trailer for the first time one time. Livestreaming brings people in, it connects communities, and allows for fans of major platforms to gather to watch, but the quality of platform is hurting the games. It is only made worse when the restreaming being done by creators only doubles down on the quality loss. I watched via Geoff Keighley’s version because this was an event labled under the “summer game fest” banner and it was being touted as THE one to watch, claiming to have a great pre-show and post show planned. His pre-show even included some game reveals. If the Ryan Seacrest of gaming says to watch his version you watch his version. The stream quality somehow managed to look even worse during a re-stream than the original one. These events are being viewed in re-streaming streams that only increase the problem.
It’s time either Google get their act together and fixes their awful stream quality, giving us quality uncompressed 4k streams, or game companies start uploading quality VOD for their game events when the events themselves aren’t live.
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