Single player games are made to be played by one player. They are developed with the intention of bringing entertainment to a single person: the one who is playing the game. How is it, then, that thousands of people are able to enjoy a single player game at once?
In the past, people have created “Let’s Play” videos of them playing through games, and others watch them. Some people have gotten very popular from creating these types of videos. However, even though the video makers record commentary directed towards viewers, there is never any sort of interaction between the player and the audience.
However, in recent years, a new type of video content for games has become popular. Called “streaming”, websites such as Twitch.TV allow people to broadcast live footage of their game online for others to watch and enjoy. With an integrated chatbox, Twitch allows users to interact directly with their viewers as they play. They can answer questions, explain strategies, and more using the chatbox or, sometimes, a webcam or microphone that allows audio commentary.
MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) such as DOTA 2 and other competitive games are especially popular with these streaming services. These games tend to be highly strategic, and require people to work together with their teammates. The interactivity between a streamer and their viewers allow them to explain their strategies and teach others how to play the game. Just as some might enjoy a certain announcer’s commentary on a football game, people tune in to their favorite users’ Twitch Channels to listen to them explain their decisions.
This wide interest in watching others play games is incredible, and may impact video games in the future. Sony has teamed up with Twitch to allow direct streaming from a PS4 to Twitch, and there are rumors of Microsoft doing so as well with the Xbox One.
Many competitive games, such as DOTA 2, include an in-game spectator mode that allows players to find a match and watch it in the game. However, these modes are nowhere near as good as a service like Twitch for many reasons, such as the fact that players are usually unable to communicate with spectators. Creating these modes costs time that could be used elsewhere; is it possible that, in the future, games may abandon spectator modes altogether and opt for Twitch integration?
Mojang has acknowledged the popularity of Minecraft streaming, and a recent update allows players to stream their game directly to Twitch. This raises awareness for both Minecraft and Twitch (although neither need it), and gives players a better way to stream their gameplay.
One game that may have Twitch integration in the future is Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. This strategic online CCG is very popular on Twitch, and is also one of Twitch’s promoted games. Despite this, Blizzard has stated that a spectator mode in Hearthstone is very low on their priority list, and is not likely to be added until many other aspects are added to the game. It would be a great decision for Blizzard to put Twitch integration into Hearthstone, but since the game is still in beta, if the feature is ever added in, it will not be added soon.
Overall, video game streaming holds exciting opportunities for the future. It can increase exposure for games that are not known very well, allowing people to discover games they might not have known about before. Twitch is a very powerful service that is able to impact games in the future. Hopefully developers will notice this, and alter their games to encourage their players to stream. We will have to wait and see what the future holds for streaming as a whole.
What do you think about streaming? Is it a revolutionary concept that will only grow as time goes on, or is it only a temporary fad? Share your thoughts in the comments.