Livesteaming: Steam Broadcasting Launches In Beta

Don't tell your password to everyone watching the first stream you saw on Steam, gang.

Oh me oh my, Valve are wading into the livestreaming waters. You know, that livestreaming thing, where you can watch other people play video games or have other folks watch you play video games? Valve today launched a public beta of Steam Broadcasting, building livestreaming into the Steam client. It’s trying to make livestreaming more casual and coincidental rather than a big fuss we consciously go through. But look, click this link and you can watch games through the Steam Community right now.

As well as an option to broadcast all games to the world at large, Steam Broadcasting supports more passive, more private forms of streaming. You can set it to automatically start streaming to people on your Friends list if they want to watch what you’re playing, or let friends send requests that you start streaming. (Or just set streams invitation-only.)

Removing the barriers between streaming and not streaming – making a conscious decision to load up your streaming software and start streaming, even if no one will be watching at first – is pretty clever all right. It makes streaming a casual thing, “Sure, go on” rather than “Right! Time to broadcast myself to the world!”

Anyone logged-in can watch streams through the Steam site, and they’ll appear on game pages and Community hubs too if streamers set them public. For now, you’ll need to opt into a beta client if you want to stream yourself. Pop open Steam’s settings, head to the Account tab, click the “CHANGE” button under beta participation, and select Steam Beta Update from that menu. Then you can right-click on names in your client’s Friends list to find an option to start watching them play, if they’re in the beta too and allow it.

Hit the FAQ for more on how it all works.

Valve have worked with Twitch before, letting Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fans tie their Steam accounts to Twitch to earn in-game item ‘drops’ while watching tournaments on Twitch. They stayed away from building in Twitch livestreaming like the Origin and Uplay clients did, though.

Dedicated livestreaming sites like Twitch do a lot that Steam Broadcasting doesn’t, mind. You can’t subscribe to particular streamers to watch them in future, for one. It doesn’t save videos. It won’t be very useful for streaming tournaments or other big productions. Professional streamers can’t sell subscriptions or receive ad revenue either. So far, anyway.

Valve have been expanding the social side of Steam for yonks, introducing new features in basic form then expanding and improving them for years, tying them into other features. I’d be surprised if we don’t see Broadcasting change a lot over time. It’s ultimately all in the service of getting people to use Steam more and like Steam more and buying more Steam games, of course, but offering a great service is a pretty good way to go about that.

58 Comments

  1. Xocrates says:

    This… is actually pretty interesting.

    Also interesting, it seems that so long as you’re using the steam overlay you can stream any game, since right now there seems to be games of Starcraft 2 and League of Legends on the list.

    I do wonder what are the bandwidth implications though.

    • Jalan says:

      I’m wondering how long it takes before someone uses the overlay knowledge to willingly break the “no porn” rule.

      (edited) I see many took to streaming films and anime, so porn must not be far off.

      (edited again) Yep, found one guy streaming a Burning Angel video. That didn’t take long.

      • Xocrates says:

        No surprises there :P

        That said, given that breaking the rules here will probably cause the account to be banned – and therefore losing the associated games – I can see porn (and other against the TOS) streaming to become rather rare, especially if in the meantime Valve decides you need a minimum account level before streaming publicly.

        • Jalan says:

          Currently the restrictions are pretty lax (made at least one game purchase recently and aren’t community banned) but the more people who openly flout the rules, the more restrictions they’ll no doubt dump onto it.

          • Martel says:

            I’ll be surprised if they don’t add something else like they’ve done with some of their sale achievements where you have to be level 5 or something as well. Would make losing the account much more painful.

          • Mordaedil says:

            My preferred way for them to handle it would be a report button that could get their channel labeled as “18+” and then Steam would require actual credit card credential to view the content of these flagged channels.

            To avoid confusion, the channel owner could also willingly put his channel temporarily to “18+” which would change the report button to no longer have that option. But it would need to have a report function for content that is illegal and cause the stream to be recorded to be reviewed by Valve for determining if reporting to authorities or to just file into the backlog.

      • Reapy says:

        Actually around noon (GMT -5) or so a co worker and I both clicked the broadcasts link on the main steam page and the screen was filled with porn! We were like ohhh crap they need to clean that up right now! About 10 min later or so we checked and it had thankfully been turned back to games, but damn, did not need that at work. Shame on you, internet.

  2. Moo says:

    I am a friends only streamer already. Showing games to friends while we sit in teamspeak. As the most casual of streamers I moved from twitch to hitbox because the reduced delay and now it seems like this is the next step for me.

    Can anyone who has tried it out let me know what the delay is? Just having the current features is enough to make me move to it, but I’d like if it didn’t take 20 seconds after I swear and scream for friends to see me die.

    • waltC says:

      I just tuned in with the Steam Client and was rewarded with a gorgeous 480×270 postage-stamp screen that made Far Cry 4 look like something made in 1996 running under Windows 95…;) Wonderful. The “broadcast” screens I can see at my full 1920×1200 resolution are simply screen shots from the last time the games were played–because no one is playing…;) What a moving experience, so far. [not.] Steam has got more gimmicks these days than a three-ring circus. How the mighty have fallen.

      So…’kay…*where* is HL3? Huh, where?

      • Premium User Badge

        Craig Pearson says:

        My experience was completely not yours. Streams I could connect to were at least 720p and very smooth.

        How the mighty are flexing.

        • waltC says:

          I’ll confess…I’m really not trying very hard at this…it fails to “trip my trigger” or otherwise ignite my imagination…Glad you are enjoying it…My own opinion is that Valve has run this “streaming” thing right into the ground…and yes, for me, it is very much a gimmick–only marginally superior to the silly “Steam Machine” and “family sharing” antics the company has pulled for the last couple of years (Who is Valve kidding? Drop Windows support and Valve goes out of business as soon as it burns through its available cash.)

          When I say, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” I am referring to Valve as a game developer. HL/2 put the company on the map and made it possible for Gabe to eat whatsoever took his fancy…;) (Made Steam possible, the whole enchilada.) I don’t mind people attempting to broaden their portfolios, but when you just plain forget how to develop games in the process, that’s sad…Might as well announce your retirement, etc.

          • Distec says:

            Well, I’m not too sure that the people who work on Steam and the people make Valve games overlap by a huge amount. When both teams are under the same house, I’m sure some interests/resources can go either way. But my impression (which could be wrong) is that the guys working on your HLs, L4Ds, TF2s, etc probably are not working on Family Sharing or Broadcast.

            I also don’t ever recall reading that Valve was going to drop Windows support, or even planning to do so in the long-term. That would indeed be silly, which is why I’m sure they’ve never said that. The stated ambition of SteamOS and its machines was to reduce the ungodly reliance PC gaming has on Windows, and the last decade or so of watching Microsoft do fuck all or even hurting the platform should tell you that is a good goal.

            Are there other, less benevolent motives? To be sure!

          • Reapy says:

            It’s ok, there is a whole other side to how people play and run games in their household and you might not fall under that category. For myself, a lot of these options are appealing, for example having a sub par htpc attached to the TV it is viable for me to stream some games if I feel like watching there.

            It also has made simultaneous log ins much easier which is key when I have two kids who like playing games the same time as myself and they want to play something on the PC rather than a console.

            The in home streaming has been ‘neat’, it is a really cool and easy to access social feature, ‘hey, check this out real quick, click, connected’. Our test example was a great looking stream with no lag and no configuration that we watched for a few minutes, quick and easy, and really cool.

            I still think steam’s usability in general could use a quick pass, but all these extra features really are nice easy to use convenience features… but I’m not a person who wants HL3… why would I? What is it going to bring to the table other FPS games dont? What could they possibly do to live up to the hype people expect from it?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Flexing what? The very real possibility that Steam Broadcasting may have microstransactions added to it at some point in the future?

          • Melody says:

            Streams for games are locked at 480p. Complete the trading card set for said game to watch at 720p. Complete the foil card set to watch at 1080p.

      • Thrippy says:

        Each caster may choose from 480p, 720p, 1080p as well as to optionally override automatic bandwidth. Streams are going to vary in quality. A view sort/filter by resolution should be in a future update.

    • nasKo says:

      There was a delay of about 10 seconds for me. The only thing that wasn’t so coolski was the buffering so far but that might be a problem on my side

  3. Crimsoneer says:

    “An unexpected error occurred while trying to load this broadcast”

  4. subedii says:

    I am currently watching someone livestream Smash Brothers Wii U. I wonder if Nintendo will have a hissy fit over this.

  5. Melody says:

    No watching on Firefox. Only through the steam client, Chrome or Safari.

    • Jalan says:

      Firefox has so many issues with codecs and the like (non-existent MSE support, etc.) that it not being supported is not a big loss. When the Mozilla devs get their priorities sorted away from trying to play catch up to the Chrome UI, maybe then they can start focusing on things that matter.

      • Melody says:

        I don’t really know the details of what you’re talking about, but when Chrome stops being owned by Google, and Safari stops being owned by Apple, I’ll make the switch. (Weird that Facebook didn’t make their own browser already, now that I think about it) For now, thanks also to a few awesome add-ons, Firefox is my favourite.

        • Jalan says:

          It’s part of the technical side of why the Valve broadcasting likely isn’t viewable through Firefox currently. I haven’t had a chance to look at what Valve is using, but I assume that it isn’t Flash-based which is why Firefox was left out of the loop on it (as that is the only thing Firefox can handle without massive issue, thanks to a lack of proper attention on getting it to handle anything else by its development team).

        • Xipheas says:

          Any add on recommendations?

          • Melody says:

            Besides the obvious (AdBlock, DuckDuckGo, NoScript, Tor if you want/need it), I like Tab Mix Plus, Bamboo Feed reader, Lazarus Form Recovery, and Awesome Screenshot (once you’ve disabled the ads in the options). Also, Pocket & LastPass (those two are available for nearly every browser) I had more tools once, but I realized I didn’t need them.

      • fish99 says:

        I’ve found IE to offer the best flash streaming experience in terms of CPU usage. Firefox/Chrome were both significantly higher. It’s the only thing I’d ever use IE for though, FF is still my go-to browser.

      • jrodman says:

        Because supporting the zero-cost patent-free WebM is oh-so difficult.

        • Jalan says:

          Never mentioned it wasn’t – it’s clear from how long media-centric functions in Firefox have languished in development hell for YEARS that whatever fraction of the development team is working on it, it’s been a radically low priority to get anything done. Even just recent (within the last main two version updates) they only started supporting H.264 video, much later than their competitor(s).

          Even now, when they try to act like they give a damn about getting MSE support working properly, it’s still a buggy as all hell mess that works for a chosen few and not the majority of everyone else.

          It’s sad that they’ve spent so much time worrying about what their main competitor looks like and trying to clone said look vs. what it has done for years and trying to replicate that.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Understandable really, desktop platforms have the Steam Client and over 75% of the mobile market uses Chrome or Safari (Android is an even split between Chrome and Android browser).

    • Dwarph says:

      To be honest, I’ve only just switched to chrome. The 60fps videos were tempting and it has much better features

      Also firefox posted a pro-gamergate article so I left as fast as I could.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        In fairness to Mozilla it was their newly setup division that did that article as a counterpoint to their anti-gamergate article. Even then Mozilla pretty much straight away released an apology and publicly ostracized that division saying its not the type of content they were setup to write and that they shouldn’t have been so stupid as any article they write will appear to show the thoughts and feelings of Mozilla as a whole.

        That incident seemed to stem more from naivety and not understanding the subject matter as opposed to being in the same league as The Escapist of TechRaptor.

  6. MadTinkerer says:

    Anyone else remember “Valve TV” from I-don’t-exactly-remember years ago? Glad to see it’s finally launched!

    • Mr. Sanity says:

      I remember Valve TV! That was late 90’s / early 2K back when MP3 streaming in WinAmp was a fun way to find new music. I remember getting to watch a few rounds of Counter Strike with it. Key difference was it was more like being a spectator on the server.

  7. racccoon says:

    STEAM is becoming like a ONE POUND SHOP!
    Full of way too much of everything! getting a finger in every pie! but still sweetly selling crap.

    • jrodman says:

      This is the equivalent of what might on my side of the pond be a dollar-store?
      I mean, rather than a measure of weight?

      (Not actually totally sure, so asking.)

    • Anthile says:

      I don’t see it as negative. Twitch is in dire need of a competitor.

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    it was nice knowing ya, Twitch

  9. WantOn says:

    I must be getting old. What on earth is the attraction of watching someone else play a game? My step-son is constantly watching idiots playing games on youtube. How is this not just watching appalling TV? I’d much rather be playing a game myself.

    *Kids these days*

    /wanders off to find an estate that were all fields when he was a lad

    • Perkelnik says:

      My thought exactly. I understand that if there is no demo, you might wanna see how the game looks/plays. But gametrailes review always did a pretty good job at this. Well at least for me.

    • MrTijger says:

      Yep, same here and yes, I am 50 so maybe we’re just the demographic who rather plays games rather than watch them being played….or something? I really do not get it but then, I dont get esports either.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I was thinking the same. My nephews stayed over one night and were watching that PewPieDie(?) guy on YouTube play The Walking Dead. All I could hear was the game and this guy occasionally swear and then state the obvious. I really did not get the appeal and told them they should just play the game themselves.

      Having an older brother who shared my interests for RPG and strategy games there was nothing more boring than watch him taking his turn. So the concept of sitting down to watch someone I don’t know play games is just…wrong.

      • Mordaedil says:

        PewDiePie’s attraction is purely because he’s an attractive swede with a really foul language and a decent amount of charisma to bond with people. General Let’s Plays though, sometimes draw in people because they can be informative, entertaining or educational.

        If you want to see what is beyond the stuff of yelling at a video game, I can recommend a few things here for a more adult audience:
        Trespasser by ResearchIndicates:
        link to youtube.com
        If you want to listen to a tragic tale of the fall of a gaming studio to produce one of the most mediocre shooters risen in a time of real innovation, where the developers weren’t afraid to innovate, but tried to do too much, presented in a relaxing, nearly documentary-like format, this is the real deal.

        Thief series by Bobbin Threadbare:
        link to lparchive.org
        link to lparchive.org
        link to lparchive.org
        For a bit of a longer series of how you really get into the thief series as games.

        He also has a Let’s Play of Deus Ex done, which includes a very entertaining series of commentary of culture, conspiracies, history, science and literature that is a very near must-see, but currently you’d need a SomethingAwful account to see it.

        Anyway, point is, there’s quite a bit of variety in what you can expect from streaming too. Finding the diamond in the muck can be quite challenging though.

      • Lagran says:

        Personally, I use Let’s Plays and gameplay videos as something to help me decide if what I see is interesting enough for me to consider buying a game. It’s also a good way to get into some tricker games by watching someone play and give advice on what they’re doing and why.

        Other people watch for the person playing the game rather than the game itself.

    • Megazell says:

      I’m in the same boat. I could never even enjoy watching a sport, I much rather be playing it. So far I don’t see any of the settings on my STEAM for this – I opt out of all of the betas. My home is full of gamers. I come home to game. TV has been dead in my house for years. Watching others play is a drag for me. If I want to see how a game is – I look for a game play trailer before deciding on getting the game and moving on.

    • Jinoru says:

      Ever be in the same room as a friend who’s playing a Single player game? Sometimes its quite fun. There are times where I just don’t feel like playing and can enjoy someone else playing a game. Its even fun sometimes when a friend is playing a game you know but they’ve never played before.

      That said, it boggles my mind that a large share of youtube traffic comes from let’s play personalities. Its another face of entertainment, and doesn’t really do all that much for games themselves I reckon.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      I will watch streams of competitive games, but I otherwise agree. If it’s a single-player game or nothing so in-depth as Dota 2 (where you can watch to learn / improve), I have zero desire to watch someone else play.

    • pepperfez says:

      I’m also not a big LP fan, but watching high-level play of games that reward it is something else entirely. Speed runs and fighting game tournaments are (if you’re interested in the genres at all) legitimately compelling.

  10. mattevansc3 says:

    I wonder what this means for SteamOS? SteamOS has been delayed (even though it wasn’t given a firm date to begin with) but since its announcement we’ve seen a lot more non-store services being implemented than the years previously.

    Perhaps Valve is beta testing the SteamOS by slowly introducing the features into the Steam client

  11. Sucram says:

    A word of warning, it seems that if your game crashes Steam doesn’t stop the stream, so you’ll be broadcasting your desktop.

    • Jinoru says:

      That’s only if you have it set to broadcast your desktop from the settings, unless there’s a bug you’re talking about?

  12. Rad says:

    This is what Valve/Steam gets that other “services (read: DRM platforms)” like Origin and UPlay don’t. It provides more than just DRM, and they keep adding to it.

  13. SealedSun says:

    From the FAQ:
    “What kind of content is restricted? […] Copyrighted material”

    In other words, video games?

    • jrodman says:

      It’s possible to put a videogame in the public domain. In some jurisdictions anyway.

      The flipside to this odd claim is that copyrighted materiel doesn’t have to reserve its rights, and can in fact grant the right to redistribute or perform etc. So it’s kind of all kinds of wrong.

      As for whether recordings of videogame play is a derivative work of the game, I would say definitely not, but apparently some lawyers / corporate lawyers / corporate shills / large game companies are not sufficiently convinced by the established caselaw and disagree.