From previews to launch day releases to revisits, someone out there is likely streaming that online game you have in mind.
Even more impressive is the rate at which live streaming has developed since it first sprouted around the 2000s. It’s not only streaming platforms that evolved over the years; even internet speeds have increased to keep up with what users require. And as any streamer knows, having adequate internet speed is the key to launching a successful live stream.
But before we get into the nitty gritty of streaming online games, let’s look at how it developed through the years.
The early years of live streaming
Turn the calendar all the way back to around the early 2000s and you’ll notice that the online landscape is much different than it is now. No one is constantly streaming a game outside of dedicated communities that utilize such technology, such as Quake players and ESL gaming for esports.
And if you go back even further, you’ll notice that Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is the technology that makes streaming possible. It wasn’t even meant for internet users to share streamed content online; it was to facilitate TV broadcasts to be delivered to homes via phone lines.
It wasn’t until 2007 that a dedicated website called Justin.tv allowed users to “livestream” something as we know it today. From there, visitors could choose which “channel” they wished to watch, depending on the content. And the best part: it wasfree to use for both streamers and viewers.
Justin.tv continued to be successful, allowing streamers to create a following based on their niches. In 2011, it was decided that the gaming section would be hosted within its own site: Twitch.tv. Now with two streaming websites, Justin.tv and Twitch.tv’s parent company rebranded itself as Twitch Interactive.
Twitch.tv’s meteoric rise
Twitch.tv’s separation as a gaming-focused, livestreaming website worked wonders. It became the place to watch someone play a game or share it. It was like having your friends over as you beat a game. Except this time, it had a global reach.
2014 proved to be a landmark year for everyone in the streaming market when Amazon acquired Twitch for $970m. From here, the website continued its meteoric rise, supported by Amazon Web Services for its uptime. Various features were added throughout the years, some of which are directly related to Amazon’s services, such as Amazon Pay and Amazon Prime Gaming.
The dawn of crowdsourced gameplay
It was also in 2014 that a fascinating phenomenon occurred on the streaming website. Called Twitch Plays Pokémon, the channel allowed every viewer to control Pokémon: Red, a single-player game. The stream started on February 12, 2014, and the viewers collectively finished the game on March 1, 2014.
Not only was the activity the source of several longstanding memes (if anyone remembers Lord Helix), but it is also a record-holder. Twitch Plays Pokémon currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most participants in a single-player game, with 1,165,140 people simultaneously controlling the game. There were 55 million views during the entire stream, which is a remarkable and unprecedented feat.
Twitch Plays Pokémon continues even today, allowing viewers to participate in the completion of various single-player games.
The effects of live streaming and marketing
Twitch became the place to be for games to get exposure, especially for indie games. Developers no longer had to rely on gaming-focused websites to generate interest for their games; a critical placement with a streamer with a decent-sized following is enough to make a difference.
This led to the proliferation of developers feeling braver about sharing their indie games with the world. All it takes is for a streamer to start the buzz with their community and they’re guaranteed to enjoy the market’s attention. Some developers and publishers have also shifted their efforts from communicating with news outlets to convincing streamers to try their games live, which has proved successful for most titles.
The biggest streamers, of course, enjoy a nice payday with their streams. Twitch and Amazon’s business model includes giving a percentage of transactions back to the streamers, which means those with more significant followings earn more from their monthly subscribers. Combined with sponsored content, it’s no surprise that established streamers become multi-millionaires.
Bringing attention to even more specific sub-activities
One of the subcultures enjoying the livestreaming platforms the most is the speedrunners. That’s the term used for players who aim to complete the game in the shortest period of time, usually with the help of glitches or other unintended shortcuts.
Although they’ve been around even before the mainstream rise of streaming, platforms like Twitch have brought this community even closer. Live streaming has also made it easier for them to keep track of each runner’s attempt and confirm the legitimacy of the fastest run attempted. Nowadays, faking a speedrun record is harder when there’s an audience tuned in to the broadcast.
And if you know the secrets of the tech behind live casinos, you’ll understand just how impactful online streaming really has been for everyone. Without it, people wouldn’t be able to enjoy their favorite casino games from the comfort of their homes.
Live casinos are a recent innovation that seeks to combine the feel of a casino with the convenience of playing online.
The status of live streaming today
A few other platforms, such as Microsoft’s Maker, have come and gone, but none of them made enough impact to dethrone Twitch as the leading streaming platform for online gaming. Facebook and YouTube also allow users to host their stream, and while it attracts some viewers, most end up returning to Twitch.
There hasn’t been a lot recently that’s as game-changing as Twitch Plays Pokémon, but there’s no doubt there have been attempts to replicate the feat. Streaming online games seems to have reached a status quo – playable betas of unfinished games are previewed, and newly released games are streamed right on release.
It might be a while before something game-changing happens again for live streaming but one thing’s certain: it’s not going anywhere. People love to connect with each other – and what better way to do so than by playing a video game together.