Valve on Tuesday introduced a brand new live streaming option to Steam, giving users in the community an alternative to services like Twitch and Ustream. The feature is currently in beta (and opt-in only), but it’s essentially as you’d expect: you hit the Stream button, and your gaming exploits will be broadcast to other Steam users.
The unfortunate part is that it seems like the service is designed to be a little more exclusive in that you’ll need a Steam account to watch or stream a game. When you see a friend in-game, for example, you can click on that person’s name and select the “Watch Game” option from the drop down menu. Since this is in beta, it’s unclear if it’ll open up to a wider market of people. I can understand needing a Steam account to stream games. But to watch? Maybe it’s not meant to be a Twitch competitor after all. Once you do start streaming, users will have the opportunity to select privacy settings, ranging from only friends can watch you stream to anyone.
Otherwise the layout seems pretty familiar; the game’s title will show up just below the main window, with a view count just below that. On the right is a chat window, with links to things like more broadcasts and that game’s store page. On the Steam Community page, there’s a new Broadcasts tab that shows what streams are popular at that particular moment. I tried watching a few streams through the browser (Safari), but so far nothing seems to work. For what it’s worth, commenters have said the quality is pretty solid.
Valve hasn’t said how far it’ll push into streaming territory. A platform like Twitch is built around the community, and allows streamers to become part of a subscription program; streams can also take donations, too, giving viewers the opportunity to give back to the person they’re watching. For now, Steam’s service is very much beta, but could be built into something much larger given how big Steam’s community already is.