Valve introduced a new feature to Steam on Tuesday that allows users to broadcast their gameplay, much like Amazon's recently acquired Twitch service. The Steam Broadcasting beta will allow users to broadcast their gameplay to friends or the public or watch broadcasts from others.
Steam Broadcasting is built for ease of use, according to Valve. Users can "view a friend's game by simply clicking on 'Watch Game' on their Friend's profile or Friends List to open a window into their gameplay -- no game ownership, special fees, or additional apps required."
Since this is in beta, those interested in Steam Broadcasting will need to opt-in to use the feature. From the Steam menu go to Settings, then click Account and change your "Beta Participation" to "Steam beta Update." Once that is done, you'll see an additional "Broadcasting" option under the Settings menu. There are already individuals streaming in the Steam community.
The options available for Broadcasting are "Nobody," "Friends can request," "Friends can watch," and "Anybody can watch." There are also options for the resolution and bitrate to broadcast, along with other options. The maximum resolution for the moment is 1080p and the maximum bitrate is 3500 kbit/s. You may be able to get away with 1080p and 60 frames per second (fps) with that.
Unsurprisingly, there are several missing features to competitors such as Twitch and UStream. There currently does not appear to be a way to use overlays or a webcam so that users can include video of themselves in the stream. Some may argue that's a bonus, however. Steam Broadcasting is also currently missing the ability to archive livestreams or any form of monetization.
It's important to remember that Steam Broadcasting is still just a beta for now. It's possible that these other features will become available later, but Valve seems to be aiming for letting players share gameplay as a form of advertising for people to buy games through Steam over turning this into a full-blown Twitch competitor. That may change in the future, but Steam could certainly turn into a potentially powerful platform for broadcasting, with its millions of users and tremendous library of games that includes its own mega-hits like DOTA 2.
Interestingly, Steam Broadcasting only supports the Google Chrome and Apple Safari web browsers, as well as the Steam client. Firefox and Internet Explorer users will need to go download a competing browser if they are interested in viewing livestreams from Steam.
You can find the details on the Steam Broadcasting beta in the official FAQ. There's information on what is and isn't allowed to be broadcast as well as other minutia.
What do you think of Valve getting in the livestreaming game with Steam? Sound off in the comments below.
[Images via Steam]