Beam: Tools for broad­cast­ing

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Video game stream­ing is in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar, with Twitch gain­ing 100 mil­lion monthly unique users watch­ing over two mil­lion monthly stream­ers since it launched in 2011, with around 241 bil­lion min­utes of con­tent be­ing broad­cast, so it’s lit­tle won­der that Mi­crosoft is so keen to get in­volved. It has done this by ac­quir­ing ri­val ser­vice, Beam, last year, and in­te­grat­ing it into Win­dows 10’s Cre­ators Up­date and the Xbox One. A clas­sic Mi­crosoft ma­noeu­vre.

Of course, with the suc­cess of Twitch and other es­tab­lished ser­vices, Mi­crosoft has an up­hill strug­gle to convince peo­ple to move from their pre­ferred ser­vice to Beam. How­ever, it has a few tricks up its sleeve.

For a start, Beam has a fo­cus on su­per low latency, some­thing Mi­crosoft is de­scrib­ing as the ‘Beam Faster than Light SDK,’ which al­lows for broad­cast­ing with vir­tu­ally no latency. By hav­ing al­most no per­cep­ti­ble pause be­tween the ac­tion in the game the broad­caster is play­ing and what the au­di­ence sees, it makes con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the broad­caster and the au­di­ence even bet­ter. You could now tell a broad­caster to look out be­hind them, and they’d re­act, rather than telling them, only to find out three sec­onds later that they are al­ready dead.

Mi­crosoft also plans for Beam to have a full suite of in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments for its streams. These range from sim­ple sound­board apps (which en­able view­ers to trig­ger spe­cific sound ef­fects) that can be ap­plied to any game, through to more com­plex in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments, in­tro­duced as part of Mi­crosoft’s In­ter­ac­tive 2.0 ini­tia­tive, launched at GDC ear­lier this year.

When im­ple­mented into a game, these fea­tures – com­bined with the low latency – will en­able view­ers to be al­most as in­volved in the ac­tion as the stream­ers them­selves, “blur­ring the lines be­tween play­ing and watch­ing,” as Mi­crosoft puts it.

Beam wants to make watch­ing “Let’s Play” streams more in­ter­ac­tive.

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