Dabe Alan

We’re all on stage: The ease of streaming on the PlayStation 4 could be a game-changer

We’re all on stage: The ease of streaming on the PlayStation 4 could be a game-changer

It’s one thing to know that the PlayStation 4 supports streaming out of the box, but it’s quite another to get a sense for just how easy it is to use. You link your account at Twitch or UStream, hit the “Share” button, choose which service you’d like to use, and there you go. You’re live in front of however many people are interested in seeing you play whatever game you’re playing.

It seems like a trap for narcissists, a way to lose ourselves in our own reflection. Then I tried streaming Resogun and invited a few people to join me via Twitter. I didn’t have my microphone hooked up so I couldn’t interact, but the viewers sent me questions, they gave me tips on how to better my play, and they collectively cheered when I beat the boss.

That’s it. I’m hooked.

The future will be televised, and it will be live

It’s not that streaming games is a new thing, as millions of people are already used to watching eSports competitions live, and archived Let’s Plays are big business. But those videos often require specialized equipment and at least a moderate amount of know how to get running. You have to be at least somewhat invested in the idea of broadcasting your own play to jump through the hoops.

What Sony has done, and what Microsoft has promised, is the removal of those hoops. Now everyone can hit a single button and make a play for Internet stardom.

There are some neat tricks on display, as the PlayStation 4 automatically blurs out things like friend requests and game invitations so viewers can’t see private information from your feed. You can use the PlayStation Camera to broadcast a video of your face next to the game in addition to audio.

There are also some shortcomings to the software: There is no way to save a playthrough and upload it to a service like YouTube for people to watch later. The PlayStation 4 is set up to stream your gaming in real time, and then it’s gone. This isn’t a good solution for Let’s Play videos or anything permanent.

Having said that, the question about who would want to watch people play games has been answered handily. Everyone. There is something fun about watching a good friend play a game while interacting with them in the chat window. You can share secrets, or even give them pointers on hard sections of the game. It’s fun to explain a neat part of a game to the audience and have them react, even if it’s only three or four people viewing.

Not everyone really cares about the size of the audience, this is just a fun way to show off a game for anyone who wants to stop by and check it out. It’s also a powerful promotional tool: Some of the Resogun streams have been created by top-tier players, and they’re a fascinating way to learn more about high-level play.

Everyone wins with this system. Sony gets a fun way to show off gaming on the PlayStation 4, and Twitch is of course all too happy to run pre-roll advertisements in front of our streams. It doesn’t matter if only a dozen people are watching the stream if there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of streams taking place once the PlayStation 4 has been on the market for a few months. The potential expansion in the audience for streaming, in terms of both people who want to broadcast and those who want to spectate, is massive.

My Twitter feed has been silly with people streaming for the first time, and many of them are enticing decent-sized crowds of people to their streams. Authors, community managers, editors, game designers… everyone can hit a button, send out a quick tweet, and connect with their audience while playing a game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a hotel room at a show like E3, hanging out with other writers or developers, and we’re playing games.

Now we can hit a single button, turn on the camera, and invite you into the fun. Suddenly every get together can be become a public celebration of gaming, with those watching able to cheer for their favorite players or call out suggestions for game modes or characters.

This is the real power of next-generation gaming. The graphical update is nice, but think of games like the upcoming Samurai Gunn or Towerfall: Ascension. These games don’t need the power of the PlayStation 4, but being able to spectate the matches and to make high-level play available to everyone just by hitting the share button is a huge selling point.

If your favorite member of the fighting game community can make their practices or the process of learning a new game public by hitting that one magic button, they are much more likely to do so, and in doing so will increase their reach while benefitting the players who want to see exactly how the sausage is made.

If streaming takes off on consoles in the way it looks like it could, it may even impact how games are designed: Developers will begin to consider what a game looks like when being watched as much as played.

I’ve seen the future, and it’s always on, always broadcasting, and very, very public.