The Rise of Game Streaming

This past week, I haven’t had a chance to play video games. It’s been over 80 hours since I hopped in a match of Apex Legends. Feels bad.

However, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying video games during my time away. I’ve used game streaming services to keep up with my fellow gamers and stay active in the  Average Gamer community.

To be clear, I’m talking about watching other people play video games, not cloud streaming services like Google’s upcoming Stadia platform.

I’ll definitely play a bunch of games over the holiday weekend, but the last several days got me thinking about where game streaming has been and where it could possibly go. 

A Brief History

In the beginning, we had all sorts of creative designs from scientific individuals. Many of them tested physics characteristics and electrical engineering problems.

When we got to the 70s, we were introduced to Pong and the Oregon Trail. These iconic games paved the way for what would become a booming industry in the decades to come.

Crossing all the rivers

Graphics, frame rate and game size continued to advanced through the 90s, where internet speeds started getting to the point where gamers could compete online. Neverwinter Nights and Ultima Online dominated the PC space as console producers prepared to bring internet-connected games to the living room.

At the turn of the century, games like Phantasy Star Online rock the gaming world with console MMORPG action. I think this is when the Big 3 (at the time, including SEGA) realized the power of the internet and how it would shape their industry.

In the early 2000s, I have vivid memories of using the internet to look up walkthroughs online, among other things, of course. 

By 2005, YouTube had arrived and people started uploading video walkthroughs to supplement the text versions. In some sense, this was an early version of video game streaming!

As we neared the 2010s, the internet had become commonplace across America and the download/upload speeds had increased. Enter Twitch.

Exponential Growth of Streams

Twitch makes it easy for gamers to share their gameplay, and personality, with the world. Since 2013, the monthly hours spent watching Twitch has increased by more than 17x. 

While the total number of monthly active broadcasters has more than doubled, the viewers by streamer continues to decline. Growth of viewing hours has been pretty flat this year so I’m interested to see what the platform introduces to try to continue their upward trajectory.

YouTube Gaming got in the mix in mid-2015. I’m of the opinion that having two megapowers in the streaming space is a good thing for the gamers. It forces them to innovate and prevents them from getting too comfortable.

PS4 and Xbox One both connect to Twitch for easy streaming. Each also has its own native streaming software on the respective console – PS4 Shareplay and Xbox Mixer.

These days, esports is becoming a big deal. Cities are putting together organized teams and folks are paying to go watch. There are dedicated tv channels to the events and certain tournaments have even been featured on ESPN.

With so many options out there, it’s no wonder that more people are getting into streaming. Lucky for me, many of the Average Gamer crew have jumped on the band wagon and have their own content to share.

Hanging Out With Friends

On Monday, I hopped in TheSpeakman’s channel for some Rocket League viewing. Tuesday, The X used Shareplay to let me watch his realtime Apex gameplay. Yesterday, I caught up on Flash’s highlights from the last couple weeks.

No matter where I am in the world, I can still feel a connection with my squad through video games, and streaming has made it incredibly easy to do so. 

Most of the time, we’ll just hype each other up and talk shop. Every once in a while, we get into a deep conversation about a serious topic. Regardless, it’s always a great time in the stream.

A couple months ago, we featured our friend Nakumah in a post. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to put the spotlight on other people in the Average Gamer community in the coming years.

What are your thoughts on watching people play video games? Are you a streamer yourself? Let me know if the comments below!

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