Steam Broadcasting v. Twitch and the game-streaming explosion

Steam Broadcasting Home Page. (Screen shot)
Steam Broadcasting Home Page. (Screen shot)

WASHINGTON, December 3, 2014 — Game streaming has become a highly competitive, and highly coveted, space. Amazon’s purchase of game-streaming leader Twitch last year for almost a billion dollars demonstrates just how massive this medium has become.

Now Valve Software is trying to get a piece of the pie. The game developer and retailer announced it is launching Steam Broadcasting, which allows viewers to watch their friends play “with a click of a button.” The beta version connects with both the game store and the community hub.

There are no fees connected with the service and users are not required to download additional apps. Users just elect the Steam Client Beta through Steam Settings and they are connected.

To watch a friend’s game, users simply click “Watch Game.” According to its web page, the only requirements for broadcasting video is that a user has made a purchase on Steam and that they are not currently Community Banned. Users receive a “toast” when a friend either requests to watch their video or starts watching the video.

Like Twitch, Steam forbids certain types of content, including porn, offensive content, leaked content, discussions of piracy, cheating or hacking, threat of violence, soliciting, discrimination and abusive language.

One major advantage for Valve is that it is the primary marketplace for PC games, so users are already familiar with the site. Steam already boasts 100 million accounts, which are excellent tinder for the Steam Broadcast site.

The question becomes why gamers are so enamored with game-streaming. Twitch reports more than 60 million visitors a month, and YouTube has logged massive success in the game recording arena. Industry experts say top streamers can make six figures a year.

One reason for the popularity is the online tournaments, which give out large cash prizes as well as bragging rights. Valve’s esports tournament was broadcast by ESPN and paid out a whopping $10 million in prizes.

Another reason gamers watch is because they like the online community and the ability to connect with like-minded users. There are even gaming celebrities. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie, has more than 30 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and has said he earns approximately $4 million dollars from advertisers on his sites.

StreamerHouse, broadcast on Twitch, shows 24 hour streaming videos by the residents of a house in Florida. In addition to earning fees from advertising, subscriptions and video game sales, the three “stars” make money from direct fan donations. They not only play games, but also interact with fans and narrate their daily life.

Gamers say they also like to watch game-play to make purchasing decisions and to improve their skills. They can watch others play games before buying them, and hear commentary by other users about game play. Watching high level gamers also helps users adopt new techniques.

Other gamers say they just like to watch for pure entertainment, like watching televisions shows of your favorite gamers.

Regardless of the reason, enthusiasm for online streaming suggests that Twitch, Steam and YouTube will face more competition in the future.

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Lisa M. Ruth
Lisa M. Ruth is Editor-in-Chief of CDN. In addition to her editing and leadership duties, she also writes on international events, intelligence, and other topics. She has worked with CDN as a journalist since 2009. Lisa is also President of CTC International Group, Inc., a research and analysis firm in South Florida, providing actionable intelligence to decisionmakers. She started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service. She holds an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a BA in international relations from George Mason University. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Horses Healing Hearts, and is involved with several other charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and AYSO.