Twitch is the current undisputed king of game streaming, with tens of millions of monthly viewers across hundreds of games and millions of channels. The company was bought by Amazon late last year in a 1 billion dollar deal, and has only gained strength since then – whether you count by concurrent viewers, developer support or number of dank memes created, Twitch is in front by a considerable margin.
The latest Twitch competitor comes from another gaming giant: Valve. They’re the creators of the Steam digital distribution platform, the largest of its kind and a highlight of PC gaming. Recently, they updated the Steam client with Broadcasting, which allows users of the service to stream PC games without installing any new software – a big deal given there are 100 million active users on the service.
Interestingly, Steam looks to be targeting a new segment of the game streaming market: users that just want to share their gameplay with friends, rather than broadcast to the world at large. You can choose to stream when a friend requests to watch, to stream to all friends without a request, or completely publically.
While eSports events likely won’t use the Broadcasting feature (apart from Valve’s own games like Counter-Strike and Dota 2, perhaps), Steam’s broadcast feature seems a great alternative to Twitch for more casual streaming between friends.
However, Steam aren’t the only ones trying to face off against Twitch. Here are five more alternative service, which offer their own advantages and drawbacks for streamers and viewers. These are the Twitch competitors.
Another game streaming site that has been attracting attention as of late is Hitbox. The site shares its basic structure with Twitch, but offers some specialised features that might make it a better choice for streamers, even if their potential audience is smaller.
One big benefit is much lower stream latency. On Twitch, there’s a 30 second delay between something happening on-video, and the streamer seeing the chat room’s response. On Hitbox, that delay is closer to two seconds, which makes it much easier for streamers to converse with and react to their viewers.
There are other nice viewer participation features as well, like giveaways, polls, subscriber notifications and rich chat which supports images and videos.
One of the most well-funded game streaming startups is Azubu. The company received around 34 million dollars in venture funding last year, and has used that cash to produce a fairly slick website, a working mobile app and some exclusive agreements with some of the biggest names in eSports – including Curse, Fnatic and CLG. Like MLG, the service is only available to “top pro players and teams”, so you can’t try broadcasting there yourself.
YouTube is a giant when it comes to pre-recorded video, but they’re lagging behind when it comes to live game streams – it’s technically possible, but isn’t well advertised to users.
Some tournaments are broadcast on the service, which can rely on Google’s massive server farms to stay operational even in the face on insane demand, but in general there are few advantages to streaming on YouTube instead of a dedicated service. Of course, given Google’s infrastructure and YouTube’s dominance, the company would only need to dedicate a small proportion of its resources to present a credible threat to Twitch.
Major League Gaming has operated its own streams for its American tournaments for the past few years, and last year it opened its doors to eSports broadcasters as a Twitch alternative.
Unfortunately, it seems that you need to be a recognised name to stream on the MLG.tv service, and most streamers seem to have much lower viewer counts on the site compared to their past streams on Twitch. Still, the company’s premium approach has been alluring enough to court many pro players and teams to the service, and it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Another promising outlet is DingIt, who have taken a radical approach to carve out a niche. Their site relies on a plugin called Octoshape, which is an annoyance for first-time users but allows for more bandwidth-efficient streams: the company claims 20-50% less bandwidth is required to view streams of a comparable quality to other streaming websites.
The company has also been actively courting influential eSports personalities, like StarCraft caster Adam “Madals” Simmons. He points to better (and early) benefits to streamers, who can start receiving revenue from user subscriptions and donations immediately instead of requiring an elite ‘partner’ status with the network. Low latency and a keyboard simulator (which shows key presses in a graphic on stream) are other streamer-friendly features introduced by the network.
Twitch is still the big winner in game streaming, but the site will need to continue to improve in the face of increased competition. New features, like theatre mode, show that the company is listening to its users and trying to remain competitive with its competitors – and with Amazon’s money, the company should be able to scale easily to meet increased demand.
Still, the pie is getting a whole lot bigger, and with so many tech-savvy competitors it’ll be an interesting and progressive time in video game streaming.