Navigating the World of Gaming Live Streaming Services

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Due to its rise in popularity, live streaming service has become a core part of the gaming industry. With more ways to gain exposure to your games, live streamers and devs are working together to promote games today. It is common for a game dev to provide a streamer with a free copy of the game to play so the streamer will show off their game to his/her audience. In some cases, it has better promotion than conventional advertising methods due to the streamer’s dedicated audience. Even large companies have utilized game streaming services for promotional means. For instance, before Halo 5 was released, Microsoft went on to sponsor a large number of Twitch streamers to play the game on release and advertise it with their viewers.

Gaming live streaming is an online activity where people record themselves playing games to a live audience. It has grown considerably over the last few years and is now a key part of gaming culture. It is accessible to everyone, with various streamers from a range of different backgrounds. Streamers can use their video showing software of choice to broadcast gameplay to various different services including hitbox.tv, Dailymotion, MLG, and Facebook; although the most common site used is Twitch. Other viewers can then watch the game being played from these sites. YouTube live also features gaming live streams but has nowhere near as many active viewers as Twitch. Live stream viewers are an interactive and engaged audience; they often contribute to the stream content and show appreciation for the player’s talent. This is usually done through a text-based chat box alongside the video player and is integral to live streaming service.

Choosing the Right Gaming Live Streaming Service

A live streamer in today’s market has an abundance of services to choose from, and in most cases, this is an advantage. However, picking the right service that best suits a streamer’s personal needs is a difficult task in itself. First and foremost, it is important to consider what the overall goal is: what is it the streamer is looking to achieve? Is it a hobby or a potential career? How serious is the content that is to be streamed? Is it for fun or competitive in nature? These are important factors to consider, and they will influence which service is most suitable for the streamer. Often, a streamer will try various services before finding the right one, and this is perfectly normal. Take it step by step when trying to establish a viewership and community base, as it’s important that progress with a service isn’t abandoned. This community is what can make a streamer successful, and taking it to a new service usually means starting from scratch. With some free time to try various services, we may find that one is more suitable than another. However, for this article, we can help pinpoint which service is best to try first.

Platform Compatibility

YouTube Gaming and Twitch.tv are currently the industry leaders in gaming live streaming and video on demand. One reason for this is the high platform compatibility. Both services can be accessed through a web browser and have no platform-specific restrictions. The vast majority of capture cards and broadcasting software can be used to stream to either, allowing console streamers to have the most flexibility. Recently, Twitch has integrated ways to broadcast straight from the Xbox One and PS4, and has even followed suit in allowing console-streamed games to be sorted into specific directories. This is attractive to console streamers who want to make sure their streaming service has features specific to their game but may want to have more flexibility down the line.

Platform compatibility describes the various consoles a streaming service supports. Many streaming services can be accessed through a web browser. Other services require more specific broadcasting software to take advantage of. A streamer trying to decide on a platform must take into consideration what they will need to invest to take advantage of the service, what specific features it may have for their console, and if their primary audience is already using a specific service.

Streaming Quality and Performance

Though I may have mentioned a bias towards Twitch, it indeed has the best stream quality with minimum delay and a user-friendly interface.

YouTube Restreaming requires a high bitrate to stream events in high quality. Viewers are required to select the quality option or let it set to auto for the best resolution based on their internet speed. This allows viewers with internet limitations to watch the stream with less buffering and load time.

High latency and buffering during live streams may affect viewer interest and the experience of watching it live. High latency with chat delay makes it hard for broadcasters to interact with viewers. The most basic quality settings required for Restream.io or casters to Twitch.tv, YouTube, Hitbox, Azubu, Beam, and Facebook Live are 720p 30fps. Restreaming to multiple sites with custom quality settings requires a good CPU and internet connection. Remember that some viewers have limitations in watching high bitrate videos, like smartphone users.

YouTube Live is capable of live event streaming, HD streaming, and 4k streaming. Videos may also be automatically saved as public after the end of the stream, requiring no additional saving and editing. Currently, YouTube is testing a new feature called “Ultra-low-latency,” which allows for live chat interaction with less chat delay. This means there will be more interaction with viewers during live events, but this feature is still in the development stage. Ultra-low-latency settings do not archive videos during ultra-low-latency live streams and may be deleted after 24 hours. This feature is suitable for real-time interactive live event voting. After 90 days of the event, live chat replay will be automatically saved, and the Ice-Cream event says that they will move to automatically save the chat. The chat will be displayed next to the archived live stream video on the event page.

For Twitch.tv, the watching and broadcasting video must remain in the range of 3,000kbit to 3,500kbit to achieve the best resolution. Viewers can choose the resolution of the stream and let it buffer, which is beneficial for viewers with low internet speeds. The “choop” method is available for viewers to reduce the chunk size of buffering, but it may reduce video quality.

The attractiveness of Twitch to gamers may well be its focus on quality and high frame rate streams. Several online streaming platforms rely on Flash player and x264 encoding, which can limit real-time streaming to around 30fps or even lower. Twitch.tv provides guidelines for broadcasters to achieve high-quality streaming. With the launch of their new video manager and additional options for highlighting stream videos, the site has improved significantly. Now, Twitch allows broadcasters to archive their broadcasts for up to two weeks to highlight their videos.

Interactive Features and Chat Functionality

Interactive stream features and chat functionality are a rather service-differentiating piece to keep an eye out for when choosing the right live-streaming platform. Beyond simple viewership, some services offer advanced features to better engage the audience and provide more viewer-to-player and viewer-to-viewer interactivity. A common feature available on streaming platforms today is the ability to vote on or predict match outcomes and event results. This is something that the Twitch platform has been expanding upon with its new Twitch Extensions service. Streamers can allow their viewers to interact with select portions of the stream window to get detailed information on teams, players, and event results through third-party extensions. This creates a more seamless way of integration and often feels more natural than simply leaving the stream to look up information on an external site. Extensions are versatile and can offer many different features. ESEA recently integrated an extension for its Rank S and Rank G live events which allows viewers to see detailed match statistics and in-depth player profiles without ever having to leave the Twitch stream.

Building and Engaging Your Audience

Your audience is the backbone of your stream. You should aim to create an interactive environment which involves your viewers and makes them want to return. Whether it is through entertainment, education, discussion, or pure skill – you need some offering that will draw people to your stream, and more importantly, keep them there. New streamers often fall into the trap of trying to attract a large audience too quickly. It is vital that you set achievable goals or you risk demoralizing yourself. If you’re just starting out, with no existing viewer base, it’s suicide to try and become partnered. You’ll likely fall short of your goal and when you fail to attain it, you may feel that your casting is a failure. Instead, set process goals. For example, “I will create and stick to a streaming schedule for 3 months” or “I will create a viewer base of 10 regulars who I can entertain and/or converse with”. Process goals are less pressurizing, and achieving them will give you a sense of accomplishment, thus motivating you to continue.

Content Creation and Streaming Schedule

A consistent schedule is very important for viewers so they know when you are online. If your schedule is erratic, you may find that on days you do stream, there may be no viewers because no one knew you were streaming! Although this point can vary depending on personal schedules, the best times to stream are generally weekdays in the evenings and weekends during the day. This is when most people are off work or school and is usually when they are looking for entertainment.

Having a schedule for your content is important for both preparing your content and being found by viewers. To do this effectively, stream at set times every day or every week. Remember that the days you stream and the time you stream can affect your audience. For example, if you choose to stream at 2 am in your time zone, you may get fewer viewers than you would at a different time of day. Also, remember that you should be preparing content in buffer, so if for any reason you cannot stream on a given day, you can simply upload the content and notify your audience via social media.

Interacting with Viewers and Building a Community

To ensure the ongoing success and growth of your live streaming channel, you need to foster a strong, interactive relationship with your viewers and build a thriving community around your brand. This can be a slow process, but it is one that is crucial to the long-term survival of your channel. The first and most important step involves simply acknowledging and appreciating each and every person who takes the time to watch your stream. Engaging your audience in conversation, calling out the usernames of new and returning viewers, and especially thanking viewers who support your channel by following or subscribing is vital. People are far more likely to return to a channel where they feel welcomed, appreciated, and involved. If they do take the time to return, be sure to remember them and make small talk to ask how they’ve been or how their week was. People love to talk about themselves, and by taking an interest in the lives of your viewers, you can form deeper and longer-lasting connections. Primarily, this step requires lots of time and effort and often requires talking to oneself for extended periods of time if there are no viewers when starting out, but the eventual payoff in the growth of the viewer base makes it more than worth the trouble.

Promoting Your Live Streams

You might have great content and an engrossing channel, but if no one is around to see it, it will get you nowhere. This is where promotion of your live streams comes in. You want to get the word out there and build up your viewership – if you are doing something like a let’s play of a game, streaming a tournament or even talking about a specific subject you might have discussed on a previous stream or in a podcast, you can hype up the event on Reddit and other gaming forums. WARNING: make sure you check the self-promotion rules of these said forums, as they usually have a limit on how often you can do it, or may even have a specific thread allocated to self-promotion. You don’t want to come off as a spammer or annoy the moderators of the forums. Social media also works in a similar way to this. Twitter is a great way to let your followers know you are going live and have a direct link to your channel. Facebook groups and pages or Discord servers can be dedicated to your channel and act as hubs for people to congregate and discuss your content, as well as to be notified when you are doing something new. Attracting people who are interested in your game or subject matter to the stream is another possibility. This can be direct promotion in game-specific forums or attracting people who have searched for the game you are playing via your stream title or stream tags, although this can be difficult to gauge how effective this is. If you have any friends who also stream, they can be a useful tool in growing your audience. You can collaborate with them and share audiences, such as a discussion between the two of you in a podcast format. If your friend has a much larger audience than you do and you establish a good relationship with them, you could also be hosted by them which will draw viewers from their channel to yours. This can also be the case if you have an audience of any kind, small or large – interviews with viewers and viewer games are also effective methods in player retention and acquisition, as there is an increase in interaction level between the streamer and the viewer. This can also lead to retention and possibly turn the viewer into a regular.

Monetizing Your Gaming Live Streams

An alternative, which bears greater potential income, requires an application process and viewer counts typically averaging in the triple digits during active (no downtime) stream schedules, is being sponsored by game developers or gaming product-based companies. This may involve a wide range of responsibilities and sponsorship incentive limits, but most commonly is a simple matter of promoting a product or company and inputting a promotional code into your stream channel description for viewers to either buy game-related products or try to win prizes through various raffles and contests. Requirements and incentives are negotiable and subject to company preference and while large sponsorships with companies like Razer or Alienware can be highly lucrative, competition and viewer dedication will be prominent factors influencing the chance of obtaining them.

Ad Revenue and Sponsorships Ad revenue is a fairly straightforward and simple method. Use a service such as Google AdSense and connect it to your stream or channel. There are other services besides AdSense, however, they may require differing levels of content age, quality, and error on the side of larger exposure. It is the easiest method of monetization, but may not be the most effective at low viewer counts. AdSense-like services are easy to set up but not what we would consider an active means of income production in comparison to alternate monetization methods. Fans will not want to directly give you money until you have proven dedication and consistency in gaming and streaming content. Passive income is not a bad strategy, however, it is more effectively put into play once the streaming community has grown.

If you want gaming to be your sole source of income, consider monetizing your live streams. However, don’t automatically assume newly started streams should do this as soon as possible. Viewers may not enjoy excessive ads and solicitations due to low content exposure time compared to larger pre-recorded or other live content platforms. Instead, the general idea is to have a exposure time to income ratio that is just high enough that your revenue generating strategies don’t frustrate or drive away potential long-term repeat viewers.

Ad Revenue and Sponsorships

This can be a tricky subject between the streamer and the viewer. If a viewer is using AdBlock, the streamer will not generate revenue from that view. An easy way to counter this is to ask your viewers to disable AdBlock for your stream, and in return, you will disable mid-stream ads. Another form of ad revenue is through sponsorships. If you are sponsored by a company, you are required to advertise that company’s product in some form. In return, you will be paid a certain amount of money. This too can be a touchy subject. If you are being sponsored by a company whose product you do not agree with or would not use, it is dishonest to endorse that product to your viewers. Always be sure that you are comfortable with the sponsorship and make that known to the company offering it.

It is likely that if you would rather stream than do a 9-5 job, you still need income to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. The more successful you become, the more opportunities will arise to make serious money. The first method of generating steady revenue is through advertisement. Depending on what company you are partnered with, there will be different methods of advertisement. Some companies will pay you to display their product somewhere on your stream, whether that be a sidebar ad or a product placement.

Subscriptions and Donations

When it comes to making money with gaming live streams, subscriptions and donations can be a great way to start. Most streaming websites, such as Twitch, have a subscription button allowing viewers to offer a recurring payment to the streamer on a monthly basis. Subscriptions are broken up into different amounts depending on the website, and it allows viewers to gain special access to new emotes or badges and sometimes subscriber-only chat. For example, Twitch subscriptions are $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99, with the streamer gaining around a 50% cut of the payment. To entice more people to subscribe, some streamers will run a limited-time subscription discount. Usually, during this time, the streamer will gain a higher percentage of the cut as an incentive to get more subscriptions. While subscriptions are a good source of reliable income, it is only available to Twitch Partners or affiliates. Reaching the requirements to become a partner can take a lot of time and effort, but consistency with a stream schedule and a certain amount of viewers can eventually lead to being accepted into the partner program. Subscription buttons are usually locked to affiliates, and partners have more incentive to stream as they gain the ability to run ads to get ad revenue share, and they may also get free game keys or access to new games to help promote it on their stream.

Merchandise and Brand Partnerships

Merchandise sales are a good means of extra income, though this is something that should mostly be aimed towards the regular viewers of the stream. Getting t-shirts, hats, or other personalized products can be cheaply done through websites that offer print-on-mass services. Though the profit margins may be small in comparison to other methods, it’s a relatively reliable and consistent means of income. Remember, though, do not overprice merchandise as potential customers who are already putting time aside to watch your streams will feel conned and less inclined to continue viewing.

Another means of securing a partnership, though one that is generally used by bigger streamers and YouTubers, is to get involved in sponsored advertising. This can come in many forms, such as reviewing a game, using a product live on stream, or short commercials. Often, these will pay highly. However, you should never accept a contract that involves you having to give a positive review on a product you have never used or do not like.

Brand partnerships and merchandise sales are another way to generate income from live streaming. Securing a partnership with a company, whether that be of gaming-related content or not, can come with a steady pay slip or extra income in the form of sales commissions and/or affiliate marketing links. This is one way to earn money. However, in order to successfully land such a partnership, you either need to be an expert in your field with a large following or you need to network and make your stream more attractive and a desirable means of marketing to said companies.

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