Progamers say next gen systems' streaming could totally alter the competitive gaming world.
Since Twitch's launch in June 2011, the streaming service has blossomed into a behemoth, sporting over 600,000 unique broadcasters per month, 45 million unique viewers and an average of 100 minutes watched by a person per day, bringing League of Legends, Dota 2 and Starcraft 2 to the forefront of eSports. But without the ability to stream on the same machine they use to game, Xbox and PlayStation users have been somewhat left in the dust in the streaming scene.
But that could soon change. The next generation of consoles are only weeks away, and with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 comes deeper, fuller Twitch integration - a prime opportunity for immense growth within the console-based first-person shooter (FPS) communities.Twitch hasn't revealed all the next gen details (that's up to Sony and Microsoft now), but what they have unveiled is certainly an improvement for streamlined console streaming.
“You will be able to very easily broadcast live video of your gameplay to your Twitch channel,” said Matthew DiPietro, Vice President of Marketing for Twitch. “A more accurate way to put it is that you are playing your [for example] PS4, you click the share button and you log into Twitch from within the console itself. So you use your Twitch credentials to log into your Twitch account, click broadcast and you're broadcasting your gameplay.”
The enhanced user experience goes both ways, with easier ways of viewing Twitch channels through the console. “You'll download that application, watch Twitch content, browse Twitch content just as if it were Netflix,” DiPietro said, mentioning the current Twitch app on Xbox 360 as a predecessor for the new gen's Twitch app.
“The reality of broadcasting gameplay,” said DiPietro, “[is that] historically it hasn't been very convenient, particularly from consoles.”
With the ability to stream right from the machine they're gaming on – a perk of PCs – Twitch hopes the next gen of consoles proves easier to stream from than PCs. “The effect that we're hoping is that it makes broadcasting games easy enough to make the eSports side of the console games a much more community generated phenomenon in the same way that PC gaming has been for the last couple of years,” DiPietro said.
The hassle and difficulty of streaming rigs has led to less broadcasting from top FPS players, but the next gen's Twitch integration presents potentially exciting opportunities and new twists for the FPS scene.
“There are a bunch of top players that don't even have all the equipment you need or the best equipment you could possibly get to stream,” said Halo and Call of Duty pro Ian “Enable” Wyatt, who admitted he hasn't streamed in about 10 months. “It's going to make me stream a lot more, it's going to make a lot of other top players stream a lot more, put out content and really catch up to the [PC eSports scenes] and actually having more players benefitting themselves from more streaming and putting out content.”
The casual FPS player base rooted in consoles have also been less in tune with Twitch, but with their scene's leaders streaming more, their awareness of the competitive community and ability to easily interact with top players looks likely to bloom.
“More and more people are becoming aware of streaming and Twitch,” said Halo and Call of Duty pro Ian “Crimsix” Porter. “The thing is a lot of the PC people are aware of it because they've been streaming for [a while].”
Increased streaming from top players would have big impacts on the FPS communities, from the elite to the casuals. Top players will be able to further develop their channels and interact faster with fans, creating a consistent destination of content and personality.
“I can see what [viewers] like, I'll be able to get their opinions on things so much faster because of how easy it's going to be to stream,” said Wyatt, who noted that YouTube has historically been big for the FPS community. Though the FPS community features a few prominent streamers like Matt “Nadeshot” Haag and Chris “Parasite” Duarte, its broadcasting lineup isn't as deep as, say, League of Legends. But things are already changing for the FPS community as fans look beyond just the best players and to interesting personalities and content, and the new Twitch integration will help establish a wider, more stable FPS presence on Twitch.
With more viewing variety, lower level players will have an easier way to voraciously consume FPS content – and subsequently have a budding resource for improving their own play. “When [casuals] are able to watch the top players, it's going to make them want to be a lot better, want to be at where the player they're watching is at,” said Wyatt. “It's going to allow those players to actually start streaming… not only will the viewers increase, but the amount of streamers is just going to increase.”
Lower level players will have a more direct way of improving, presenting a shift in overall competitiveness and skills from scrubs to the godlike. And they will also easily maintain their own streams. “Now we have all these tools right in front of us to mold us – not only the top players – but just to mold everyone into the best player they can possibly be,” Wyatt said.
Hidden, hungry players will now be more enlightened through Twitch, leading to a deeper competitive community. “There's going to be a lot more people watching these players and competitions where they'll be able to pick up the strategies that the top players are implementing in the game plan,” said Wyatt, noting top players will have to put in more work to stay there. “Not only will the game evolve quickly, I think the competitiveness is going to jump.”
Formerly mid-tier (or even lower) players and teams could rise up and slay the elite; the best may be in for a nasty surprise. “The scariest teams we play are always the ones we have no idea how they play, we have no idea what they do,” Porter said. “With the Twitch streaming aspect, basically no one's safe.”
And, of course, their rivals will be closely watching to analyze game plans and pick up on exploitable weaknesses, which could lead to mind games over broadcasts (like sandbagging or misleading strategies) or strange selections in streaming. “[Avoiding streaming practice] could be possible in the future with FPS where a lot of the top players will want to protect themselves and their teams,” Wyatt said.
It might get to a point where they might kind of minimize [streaming practice and team scrimmages] and stream more fun gameplay. . . because a lot of the top players and top teams might feel threatened.
But top players will still likely end up streaming practice in some way – the fans demand it, after all – which will lead to faster evolution in gameplay and different types of strategies. “This is going to make the game more diverse in a sense because you're going to see unconventional stuff, you're going to see people trying to counter stuff that they've watched online,” Porter said.
Still, there are difficult variables for the FPS scene as Twitch moves forward into the next generation, including individual developer support for the competitive community, the ability to have overlays for sponsors, and the difference in time console gamers spend with their machines compared to PC gamers.
Competitive [PC] gamers versus competitive console gamers, the amount of hours put in is completely different. It's almost like twice as much spent on PC than on Xbox,” says Porter.
But there's a massive FPS player base in the dark that's waiting to be awakened with the next gen's Twitch integration. “If you ask any casual gamer. . . almost all of them know what Call of Duty is or what Halo is, and if they haven't at least played it once, they've seen someone play it,” Wyatt said. “The potential is limitless because you really don't know how many casual gamers that are out there. . . that will actually watch just because they've never been accustomed to it, they've never tapped into the competitive side of things.”