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YouTube Gaming adds live Android streaming and paid subscriptions

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YouTube's dedicated gaming video service, which launched in August, is adding a few new features. As announced last month, the YouTube Gaming app will now support streaming live video and gameplay from Android phones, letting players use their front-facing cameras to appear and talk over mobile games. It's also adding ways for fans to either donate to streamers or pay a monthly subscription for extra perks, like special badges and subscription-only chat sessions.

Mobile game streaming isn't as ubiquitous as playing PC and console games for an audience, but the idea has been around for a while. Competitor Twitch launched its very first mobile streaming option in early 2014, and it's encouraged users to stream Android games with a Sony-made capture app that includes similar features to YouTube's new tool. One of the benefits here, says YouTube product management head Manuel Bronstein, is that it doesn't require any changes on the part of game developers, it's available on all Android phones, and it's a simple one-button launch process for users.

Likewise, Twitch has long offered subscription options for its streamers, many of whom take individual donations from fans as well. YouTube's new system is roughly similar. Viewers can pay $3.99 a month (or the rough equivalent in the local currency of over 40 countries where it's supported) to support an individual channel; in exchange, they'll receive benefits including public thanks from the streamer, a special chat badge, and access to private live chats. Bronstein says one-time gifts are also a possibility. Currently, only a small group of beta testers can offer these subscriptions, but YouTube will be "continuously expanding" the list of channels. YouTube is already a lucrative option for pre-recorded videos, like those of millionaire gamer PewDiePie, who now also has live videos on YouTube Gaming.

On the viewer-only side, there are some small user experience tweaks; YouTube Gaming now remembers search history on iOS, for example, and the app will now show users when anyone is playing a specific game they've bookmarked, instead of just letting them know when individual channels are online. But overall, this update feels designed to make YouTube Gaming a more full-featured option for streamers — whether they're new to the game or considering jumping ship from Twitch.

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