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Twitch to improve European streaming with data center in Paris

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In a long-planned and promised effort to improve its service in Europe, video game streaming site Twitch announced today it has launched a new data center in Paris, France.

The new "point of presence," as Twitch calls it, follows the addition of Prague servers in Dec. 2013 and four recent upgrades to Twitch server capacity around the world, including a 200 percent capacity upgrade to the company’s London servers.

The new Paris location brings Twitch’s European operation up to six bases of operation compared to North America’s seven.

“With a new point of presence in Paris, it’s definitely going to improve the Twitch experience for our friends in France,” Stuart Saw, Twitch's regional director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa said in a press release.

“We are also laser-focused on rolling out similar infrastructure expansions and upgrades in other popular broadcasting hubs.”

With the move, Twitch puts itself in a good position to continue the stunning growth its seen over the past year. In 2013, the San Francisco-based more than doubled in size to the point where it’s now sucking up more peak traffic than the likes of Facebook and Hulu.

But lighting quick growth doesn’t come without big hiccups. Europeans have long complained about low-quality streams that lagged significantly. That's caused many frustrated users to turn to competitors like Azubu or YouTube. Some fans have even tried to program their own makeshift solutions.

And Twitch has been promising improved service for European users for quite some time.

In September 2013, venture capitalists invested $20 million in Series-C funding inot Twitch. The company promised a big chunk of that cash would be going toward fixing its European problem.

In a Reddit AMA held months earlier, Twitch founder and CEO Emmett Shear had addressed numerous complaints about the quality of European streams. “Yes, we’re expanding capacity in Europe," he promised one redditor. “Three new datacenters going up over the next 90 days. Stockholm, Prague, Paris. In that order.”

Stockholm came online last summer. It took until late December for Prague to come online. And now, Paris has finally arrived.

“We just switched to a new video delivery system that allows for more effective buffering," said Ben Goldhaber, Twitch's director of content marketing. "That makes all the data centers more efficient. We’re not perfect in Europe but what we’ve seen from a tech standpoint and statistics is good.”

Despite all the improvements and additions over the last year, Twitch users are still reporting an uneven experience in Europe. Will the Paris data center be enough to fix the problem?

The move comes as serious competition has suddenly emerged on the horizon. Azubu, a German-based streaming company spending a fortune on premium content delivery networks, received a $34.5 million investment this week. Own3d.tv, another European streaming company that previously shut down, recently announced its return. Meanwhile, YouTube, DailyMotion, and Hitbox continue to attract European users driven away from Twitch.

“It's ludicrously bad,” journalist Duncan Shields wrote just two months ago on Twitch's lag problems. “I have an OGN [OnGameNet] subscription [on Twitch], but if I watch live I end up watching via Dailymotion and only watch Twitch for the [videos on-demand]."

Twitch representatives say their fixes are helping. Europeans are now watching Twitch for longer periods, at higher bitrates, and with less buffers than ever before, Goldhaber said.

“There’s tons of work still to do but it’s pretty clear things are better now.”

Paris is the newest weapon in the company’s arsenal at a time when the war for live streaming is heating up. But even with well-financed competitors entering the fray, Twitch still boasts the lion’s share of viewers.

And as far as most Europeans are concerned, Twitch’s new servers are probably better late than never.

Photo by Doctor Popular