with CLIPREVIEWED learn the articleThe Best Video Game Live Streaming Services
Why simply play a video game by yourself when you can play it to an audience of thousands of people online instead? With video game live streaming services, you can turn your hobby into an interactive performance others can enjoy. If you become popular enough, you may even be able to earn a living from your shows. But don’t worry; if you’re camera shy, these same services provide plenty of great ways to watch live streams of video games, not just to create them. Live streaming is arguably the biggest thing happening in the gaming world right now, so there’s no better time to get on board. However, with several options to choose from, which service should you pledge allegiance to?
We’ve tested four of the biggest streaming platforms for gamers: YouTube Gaming, Hitbox.tv, Mirrativ, and our Editors’ Choice, Twitch. Each one allows you to broadcast yourself playing video games online. But they also have unique strengths and weaknesses that make them better or worse for different users. We’ll explain the important features, and why they might matter to you, so you can figure out which service is right for you.
The Viewing Experience
The best way to jump into a streaming community is to simply visit its website and start watching some videos. None of these services have particularly attractive layouts, but they are visually dense and blast a lot of enticing videos right in your face. Certain kinds of games tend to be very popular on these platforms, including Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Blizzard Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
However, if you’re into something more obscure, you can choose to follow streams for specific games. You can also follow specific channels and personalities. Twitch and Hitbox mostly deal with console and PC games while Mirrativ offers Android streams exclusively. YouTube Gaming includes a blend of both. YouTube’s service also highlights live and recorded content fairly equally, whereas rivals place more of an emphasis on live streams.
The Streaming Experience
Before you’re ready to make the leap to streaming yourself, you have to figure out what hardware you need. In the past, streaming was a cumbersome process. You had to physically add a capture card to your PC or deal with some clunky external capture device. But streaming tech is now more democratized than ever. External devices like the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition paired with programs like Open Broadcast Software make the entire process pretty intuitive.
Console and mobile gamers have it even better. Twitch and YouTube Gaming have dedicated viewing apps for mobile devices, as well as viewing and streaming apps for consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. And Android owners can broadcast whatever app is on their screen with the push of a button using either YouTube Gaming or Mirrativ on their phone or tablet.
The Community Experience
Streaming services are about more than just technology. They’re also about cultivating and empowering a community of fans and creators. Various chat customization options let streamers tailor the way they interact with their audience, but the larger social vibe of the platform as a whole colors the experience, too. Obviously each of these communities is primarily made up of video game fans, but that doesn’t mean their cultures are entirely identical.
Twitch is the service most synonymous with game streaming, and its community is the most robust. Twitch members are the masterminds behind recent live streaming experiments like Twitch Plays Pokemon and the Bob Ross marathon. Twitch also has a lot of corporate support, so you’re likely to find plenty of officially sponsored video events on the service from big publishers and other game-friendly companies.
However, the corporate coziness of the Amazon-owned company sometimes comes back to bite users, unfortunately. The indie-focused Hitbox has looser restrictions about what can and can’t be streamed compared to Twitch’s conservative content policies. There’s a difference between blocking fascist, juvenile trash such as Hatred and censoring Robert Yang’s work for its LGBTQ themes, but both have been banned on Twitch.
Twitch users are also vulnerable to copyright takedowns, although not as vulnerable as YouTube Gaming users, seeing as that service is little more than a skin for regular, DMCA-afflicted YouTube. Meanwhile, Mirrativ’s narrower Android scope and availability limits how large its community can grow. However, it’s also still a relatively new service, so maybe it hasn’t reached its full potential.
We all can’t be the next PewDiePie and make millions of dollars per year shrieking in front of a microphone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And to encourage us, video game live streaming services include avenues for streamers to get paid for their work. Typically this involves expanding your channel’s popularity enough that you can apply for a partnership. The ad revenue these services make, along with premium subscription revenue in Twitch’s case, relies on users making videos people want to watch. So it’s nice to see that wealth spread around.
Different streaming services also offer different alternate payment features. On YouTube, Gaming streamers can choose to present ads at any time as well display links to Kickstarter or Patreon pages where fans can support them even more. Hitbox lets fans pay streamers directly through the Web interface. Again, you won’t become a millionaire overnight if a few people watch you play Street Fighter V or Call of Duty: Black Ops III, but at least these services allow you to profit from your hobby.
Stream of Consciousness
Stop wasting time playing games while no one is watching and hop onto one of the best video game live streaming services of 2016. Click through the blurbs below to read our full reviews of each of these products so you can decide for yourself which one is for you. Who knows, in the future you may even see PCMag having some fun on Twitch or YouTube Gaming from time to time.
Do you have any thoughts on the game streaming phenomenon? Are you a veteran streamer with tips to share? Be sure to leave a message in the comments section below.
Featured In This Roundup
In the face of growing competition, Twitch has upped its game to remain the face of streaming video game content. It makes it easy for pros and hobbyists to share their speed runs, walkthroughs, and demos with the masses.
YouTube GamingYouTube Gaming Free
YouTube Gaming makes it a breeze to find and watch an endless supply of gaming live streams and videos, as well as broadcast your own, whether it’s from your desktop or your Android device.
Hitbox.tv isn’t the biggest or best video game streaming service, but there are benefits to being the little guy.
Mirrativ is a cool tool for streaming yourself while you use Android apps, but it feels cut off from the larger streaming space.
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