Microsoft and Amazon in Video game Livestreaming Battle!
Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT) Xbox unit announced it will be buying Beam Interactive Inc., a livestreaming service that allows gamers to broadcast their gameplay online for an audience. The price attached to the deal, which was announced on the official Microsoft blog, is unknown. “Bringing Beam, their award-winning team and their inventive technology into the Xbox family supports our ongoing commitment to make Xbox Live more social and fun,” read Microsoft’s statement. Microsoft’s last big purchase was LinkedIn.
The concept of gamers watching other gamers play did not originate in a Silicon Valley open-plan office. It sprung in the community itself, with people first using Youtube (GOOG) and then services solely designed for the purpose of livestreaming gameplay like Twitch.tv and Hitbox.tv. As perplexing as it may seem to some, gamers enjoy watching others play the same way most people watch a movie, admiring the main player’s reflexes, his strategy and enjoying the universe of the game from a different perspective. Most gamers talk while they play, adding an element of personality and celebrity to the whole experience.
In 2014, Amazon (AMZN) acquired Twitch.tv for $1.1 billion, shocking people who had never heard of it. Twitch took the Youtube model to the next level and allowed a player to interact with his audience through a chat box. They also introduced conventions, user generated programming and competitions to build a community. Last year, Youtube introduced a gaming app for Android phones that allows players to livestream or record gameplay to share with viewers.
Twitch currently is hard to beat with its 100+ million unique viewers per month and 1.7+ million unique broadcasters per month. However, Beam, which was launched at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY 2016 and won best startup, does have the advantage of bringing more interaction to the table. Beam dissolves the separation between the player and his audience even more. It allows those watching to interact with the player by introducing new elements into the game itself. Microsoft’s blog post explains this with the example of the game Minecraft. “You can give (players) new challenges and make real-time choices that affect their gameplay, from tool selection to quests to movement; all through simple visual controls,” it says. Twitch announced in March that it does want to bring interactivity in its game to the same level but Beam has perfected its platform for just this purpose.
If Microsoft decides to restrict Beam to just its own titles however, gamers may abandon it if for no other reason than there is nothing less cool to a gamer than being told what to play (and watch) by a guy in a suit. CEO of Beam, Matt Salsamendi, reassured users that no restrictions will be put in place yet. He wrote on his blog, “Beam is designed to work with any game, and we’ll continue to offer broadcasts across all gaming platforms, just as we do today.”