When you start looking into streaming, you may notice that there are quite a few different streaming platforms out there. Especially in the wild and crazy world of streaming video games on the internet, it’s always worth at least being aware of not only what your options are but perhaps what the grass is like on the other side of the internet. Especially after Microsoft announced that it’s acquiring Beam, it’s not unreasonable to think “What’s Beam and why do I care?” It’s also fun to think about crazy hypotheticals like, “What platform would you stream on if Twitch disappeared tomorrow?” In this article we’ll focusing on Twitch.tv, Beam.pro, Hitbox.tv, Youtube Gaming, and Facebook Live. We’ll delve into some of their features as well as potentially just streaming to all of them for the indecisive of you out there.
Because these sites are all very similar, I’m going to mention whatever stands out the most about each site. Some things are generally the same on each service, like each one being about streaming, but other things are different to varying degrees like how each services handles previous broadcasts or extended chat features. Take this as some pretty big, general ideas for each site so you have a better impression of what each platform offers so you can look for specifics on your own instead of just not knowing what the heck a Beam is.
It’s impossible to talk about streaming video games on the internet without mentioning Twitch.tv. At this point, I don’t even think it needs any kind of introduction, Twitch stands alone as the streaming platform for video games and sometimes more as of recently. The most worthwhile thing about Twitch to a new broadcaster is definitely the community. The number of people on Twitch compared to any other live platform is staggering. On the “All channels” tab, there are pages of broadcasters with over 1000 viewers so the potential for success on Twitch is extremely high. Even for new broadcasters, a large site-wide community means that there is an even higher amount of people that can find your stream and start watching. The downside to this, Twitch is heavily saturated with broadcasters, and it’s only getting harder to get noticed.
The other thing that really stands out on Twitch to me is the new features. Twitch certainly has it’s share of “new” features it pushes like an HTML5 player, friends lists, and chat whispers, but Twitch also happens to add in actually interesting features between partnered and non-partnered broadcasters like Clips and Cheers. Cheers is just nice because it’s a built in way for viewers to tip broadcasters and Clips is a way for viewers to highlight moments on stream. Clips in particular is cool because, much like Oddshot, your viewers can take a more active role in your community. These are things that are currently only available on Twitch and as Twitch grows and other platforms don’t grow, this list of features will get longer and more appealing.
One thing worth mentioning is that many third-party applications support primarily Twitch and then sometimes other services. Things like channel bots with various commands, alert services, and even whole web-based overlay programs support Twitch primarily. Services such as Twitch Alerts can be used to track tips, followers, and subscriptions. This isn’t something that Twitch necessarily controls, but the availability of third-party tools like this could be important to you. I find that the lack of these tools leads to streams looking too similar.
Beam.pro is another, very similar video-game-oriented streaming platform. What set’s Beam apart from Twitch is the interactive games you can play on the site. Twitch Plays was such a popular idea, now with it’s own category, where you can spam commands in chat that translate to button presses in-game. Beam takes it a step further by putting actual controls for viewers to use. Instead of not only spamming chat and making it unreadable, actual buttons are a more familiar interface for games. Beam offers tools to make a custom interface for whatever game you might play or whatever system you want to make. If you want full controls to give viewers the ability to fully play the game, you can add in every button for the game. By contrast, you can just add one or two buttons in if you only want your viewers to pause for you or change weapons randomly or something. This becomes a layer of game design unto itself so the sky is the limit. Currently, one of the most popular Beam streams is YouPlay where it cycles through various games that viewers can play through entirely.
Hitbox.tv has unfortunately been the butt of many Twitch-related jokes. Whenever a streamer gets banned on Twitch, maybe they end up on Hitbox after not too long. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because Hitbox isn’t a bad site, but it’s kind of unremarkable now. It still does all the things you want it to do, you can broadcast video games, you can highlight VoDs and download them or upload them right to Youtube, there’s a chat and stuff but it’s not that different. It does the job, so to speak. The thing that really stands out about Hitbox is that the monetization tools are available to all broadcasters. This means that you can have a sub button and sub features from the get-go along with running ads. You do also get a more robust streaming dashboard that includes options to have a sticky chat message, run polls, and host giveaways, all from the default broadcaster dashboard. The only feature you don’t get is transcoding but hey, you can’t win ’em all.
The service that stands out here is actually YouTube Gaming. I’m going to assume you know what YouTube is so just imagine you’re watching YouTube videos but live. The reason YouTube Gaming actually stands out is because it’s both better and worse than other streaming platforms, oddly. The best part about YouTube Gaming is the video player. The tried and tested YouTube player makes a fantastic streaming player featuring both site-wide transcoding options as well as DVR functionality, the ability to just rewind on the spot in case you missed something. As far as video players go, YouTube’s is the best, without a doubt. Even the extended YouTube features like Cards allow you to link out to your content in a better way than anything on any other platform. A video player does not make a streaming platform, however. Community-oriented features, like hosting or teams or even being able to have a list of suggested watching isn’t there. Each stream just feels like a YouTube video that happens to be live but the rest of the experience just feels like YouTube throwing their algorithm at you.
But that’s kind of important. Unlike all the previous platforms, YouTube Gaming really seems like YouTube but for gamers; not a dedicated streaming platform where a community of live viewers and broadcasters can flourish. After the poor launch of YouTube Gaming, the site has turned into a pretty dull-looking website and any push to really build up this community seems to have fizzled out. Live streaming on YouTube certainly isn’t going away but this focus on gaming and the gaming community is looking like many a Google project where because they don’t do their part of the push, the project fades into obscurity, cough Google Wave cough Google+ cough. At the very least, what you end up with is a YouTube channel which you might not have asked for or might not have even wanted but it’s a much more robust VoD platform than whatever Twitch, Beam, or Hitbox think they have.
Lastly, I do want to talk about Facebook live video. I’m using Facebook to talk about this but really I’m talking about all social media platforms. You probably wouldn’t even think that Twitter had a built in live streaming player but they totally do because the ELeague broadcasted straight to Twitter. You might remember Facebook Live as that annoying thing your friends do when literally nothing happens but if you’re all about Facebook, they’ve setup the kinds of hooks you might need to stream to Facebook from Xsplit or OBS. There are problems with Facebook specifically, mostly having to do with reach. The short version is that to get more impressions on Facebook posts, you have to spend money.
What Facebook Live represents is really cool because it more normalizes the idea of not only streaming games but streaming in general. Snapchat and Instagram Stories teach us that people enjoy the immediacy of content as well as being in the moment so live streams of any sort are closer and closer to becoming a more common. Inside this gaming bubble, it’s not that unheard of to be live streaming as your full-time career but it might still be a bit strange to your parents. Your parent’s probably don’t use Twitch but they probably have a Facebook account and this just means they’re essentially one click or notification away from being in a live stream. Even outside of this isolated situation, the understanding of live streaming and what it is and the idea that it can even be a career is closer to the mainstream so you’ll get less, “wait, so you play video games… on the internet?”
As I mentioned at the top, I said I was going to talk about how you can forgo the choice of “which platform” and instead just broadcast to every platform at once (except Facebook). We talked about Restream.io before so if you want a full rundown, you can read our Restream review. If you want the short version, you stream to Restream and they restream to other places. Intuitive! If you’d want to do something like this by yourself, you’d have to do the encoding and streaming multiple times over so it really is getting two or more streams out for the cost of one. They’ve even got a nifty app to show the chats from all the services you stream to. They really thought of everything! Eventually, you’ll have to probably start think about holding down one platform exclusively if you get a contract to stream on one platform but you’re smart and you probably already knew that.
That’s about everything I can think of. I want to remind you that these maybe I didn’t mention all the specifics of every platform but I did talk about the biggest things to me. I didn’t mention that there’s a GIF search in the Hitbox chat so you can spam in all kinds of different ways but I’m going to go out on a limb and say you wouldn’t stop streaming on Twitch to stream on Hitbox because of something like that. I also didn’t mention every streaming platform ever because you get more niche-y and specific beyond the one’s I mentioned. Even Beam, Hitbox, and Youtube Gaming are blips on the radar compared to Twitch but I thought they were worth talking about regardless. If you’re an art person, Picarto has probably come up in your circle more than once, Azubu is pretty prominent for more competitive circles, Daily Motion streaming is on the PS4 so… there’s that, and there’s so many more. It’s important to remember that this medium is still new. I remember when I was watching the Day9 Daily on Ustream and now Ustream is more of an enterprise solution. In the span of five years, anything could happen so it’s always worth knowing your options and having at least a basic understanding of every platform available if you’re just getting into the world of streaming.
What I’m saying is I’ll see you in five years in our VR theater for the VR streams.
I’m Mike and I play video games on the internet.