Gamers will have to decide which streamers to watch
When I look back at 2014, I tend to focus on the video games that I have played or the news that might influence the evolution of the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 in the coming years, but for a growing audience the past 12 months were the moment when Twitch video streaming has become more important than actually playing.
At the moment, there are personalities who broadcast their activity on the service and have massive audiences, but there’s also space for players who want to simply show how they experience their favorite titles.
Twitch is fast becoming a better way to evaluate a game than reading a classic review and major publishers are working to sponsor the channels with the biggest audience, while producing their own streams to show off features of upcoming releases.
Steam Broadcasting enters the fray
Valve surprised a lot of people when it announced that it was adding a Broadcasting feature to Steam, its dominating digital distribution service.
The concept is more limited than that of Twitch but it can be used to stream video game content (and more) to a smaller audience which is made up of friends.
Valve has not announced any plans to expand Broadcasting in 2015 in any major way but gamers can expect to see it play a major role in upcoming DOTA 2 tournaments or other Valve events.
Massive audiences versus smaller circles of friends
The common view is that, at one point, Steam Broadcasting will become a true rival for Twitch and that the two services will compete for a while, trying to introduce new features and to increase their audiences, before one of them becomes a footnote in the history of video games.
But I suspect that Valve is not aiming to create a solution for mass streaming but rather a way for smaller circles of friends to show each other gameplay and to comment on it.
Twitch seems to be focused on big audiences at the moment and the Steam feature can become important if it manages to become relevant for smaller groups, giving them easy-to-use tools to create content and to then share it.
The two can co-exist and the only downside is that a growing number of gamers will continue to watch rather than play in the coming year.