Games streaming is huge. It has been for years now, and Twitch has been the King of this trend. Founded in 2011, the broadcasting network is home to e-sports championships, has millions of streamers and viewers, and ranks as one of the most popular websites in the world.
YouTube attempted to purchase Twitch but have instead founded their own service, YouTube Gaming (no Bonus Points for originality with the name choice, there…) and although it is indeed a good service, Twitch towers over them with utter supremacy, especially after the Amazon acquisition.
New-kid-on-the-block “Beam.pro” is looking to revolutionise games streaming as we know it, though, and from my experience so far, they are managing it! Read on to find out more…
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I first discovered Beam several months ago, late in 2016. Now, the first thing you need to know is that I am a games streamer* and that I was researching the various hardware and software options available to me that could truly “up-my-game” (pun intended) as a regular streamer and better the experience for both myself and my viewership.
Twitch is my go-to service, but mostly for its convenience. I appreciate that I can stream straight from my Xbox One or Playstation 4 without any know-how or effort, because the software is all built-in to the two systems. In comparison, YouTube Gaming is only available on Playstation 4.
I do stream PC games now to my Twitch, as I have recently discovered how, but my PC is very limited in its processing power so the software that I use – OBS Studio – is quite consumptive of this and actually slows my games – and my stream – down unless I play something seriously basic; say, requiring of 1GB RAM.
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OBS does allow for streaming to Beam, but again, OBS is just as consumptive of my system. This is where Microsoft’s big requisition announcement comes in… In much the same way that Amazon purchased Twitch last year for a whopping $970 million, Xbox and Windows creator Microsoft purchased newcomer Beam.pro for an “undisclosed amount”.
This purchase is a fantastic thing for several reasons. Firstly, I want to point-out that Microsoft never showed interest in purchasing Twitch, and that Beam.pro is a fresh new “take” on streaming that has a very limited fanbase, so the purchase suggests the utmost confidence in the uniqueness of the platform and its pure potential. Secondly, Microsoft kept the entire Beam team on-board and integrated them into the parent company, so having a multinational cooperation funding them means that the little independent Beam team can now really take their concept to new (hopefully awesome) levels…
“We’re no longer the scrappy startup we were last year, and with the resources of Microsoft behind us, we’re going back to the basics and evaluating how we can make every aspect of the site more smooth, stable, and epic. Today, I’m extremely excited to announce that Pro users can begin testing an entirely new version of Beam, written from the ground up with scale in mind.”
Last – and certainly not least – of the positives for Microsoft’s purchase is the fact that Beam is now going to be integrated into Windows 10 and Xbox One. For Xbox gamers, this means “snapping an app” like they do with Twitch, but the truly incredible thing for PC users is that this means that you do not need to have third-party broadcasting software installed on your computer, nor a “capture card”: you just need your computer! The easy-access “Game Bar” will literally just have a “stream” (or something thereabouts) button which you click (after signing-up) and BOOM! you are good-to-go. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy; no extra software or hardware required; which opens up PC streaming to a lot of gamers that would otherwise be unable to doso, and that is a beautiful thing.
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So, what is it that makes Beam so special? Quite a lot, actually! I honestly felt a little overwhelmed, which is both a good and a bad thing. There are so many different menus (!), but for good reason.
As a viewer I can earn “XP” and “level-up” for watching the broadcasts, earning more features on the website for my loyalty and being able to “spend” the “Sparks” (the website’s currency) I earn. Basically, they have “game-ified” the streaming experience! I have also found that because of the near-instantaneous nature of the streaming time, the experience of watching is less “laggy” and I can speak more with the people I am watching, without a delayed reaction time.
As a streamer, I can appreciate how utterly instantaneous the service is, with it’s unique, patented “FTL” software that they have developed, making the delay between streamer and viewer literally less than a second long! This means I can reply to my viewers the moment that I see their comments, they can give me advise about the game, and the interactive features of some games that I have used on Twitch, for instance, become more efficient. For example, when people are voting on what weapon I use or what level I play etc, or their comments actually directly affect the gameplay by sending me power-ups or nasty bosses, it actually affects my game right away and they feel more a part of the show than they ever could before!
Beam have added extra interactivity options to their streams as well, with the ability for streamers to have special sound effects when people post certain things in the comments or Subscribe, for instance, and there are buttons that viewers can activate using their earned “Sparks” to interact with the stream. This is something that can only be done if you do the programming, however, but they claim that it is really “easy” and they have videos to walk/talk streamers through the process. They furthermore claim that this means that any game can become interactive, no matter how old or how new, whether indie or AAA produced.
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I understand that all of this might be a little overwhelming, difficult to understand, or perhaps even difficult to believe, so I have included print screens from my own experience on the service (I am currently Level fourty-three!), I have created a dedicated comparison chart of Twitch, YouTube and Beam which I have posted below, and I will be attempting to program an interactive stream shortly and do a post about how it goes, so keep “watching-this-space”!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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Special thanks go to “Rick Lobo” who talked me through a lot of how the website actually works, directly on his stream, as I watched him play! https://beam.pro/Rick_Lobo