Twitch has been the breakout success of the gaming world in recent years. Capitalising on the rapid growth of competitive e-sports, and the odd viral hit such as Twitch Plays Pokemon, the website has completely changed how a vast number of consumers interact with games on the web. Recently acquired by giant Amazon for a staggering £970 million, Twitch has demonstrated that the spectated-play field of videogames is a market just waiting to be brought into the mainstream in the way the Wii and smart phones brought the physical playing of videogames. To this stage, enters Valve. A household name in the video game world, Valve already holds market dominace to an almost monopolising degree on the PC gaming platform. With their move into living room gaming with the Steam Machine planned for early 2015, Valve have also revealed their intention to move into the streaming market with Steam Broadcasting.
Allowing users to browse currently broadcasting games in the community portal of the Steam network, as well as being able to search streams for specific games or broadcasters, users are able to watch live streams of others showing off a vast variety of game content. These range from commentated play-throughs, called ‘Let’s Plays’ to indepth demonstrations of gameplay tactics.
Steam’s main difference to rival Twitch right now seems to be the way it draws in revenue. Twitch so far allows content creators to make money from their streams if they generate enough viewers. This is currently not a feature in Steam Broadcasting. However, viewers do not have to sit through advertisements in order to watch content online, which is required on Twitch TV. Clearly, Valve is banking on the essentially free marketing of games on its platforms to pay for itself. By offering a streaming service providing the opportunity to watch game content before buying, Valve is hoping that they can convince many a potential customer that the experience the streamer is having is worth the cost of purchase. With the added convenience of being so close to the point of purchase for the game they are watching, the potential sales market could be huge.
It remains to be seen whether Valve can challenge the already established market dominace of Twitch in their latest venture. With companies such as Google also offering thier own streaming services, the medium is getting increasingly competitive.