Via a freely available client, currently in beta, Steam users will be able to watch the games their friends are playing or automatically broadcast their own gaming sessions across the service.
Steam is the largest PC games distribution service in the world, with over 100m users. It is effectively a digital store, selling PC gamers, which users download and store on their computers. However, like console services such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, it also has a social element, with friends lists and chat forums.
According to Valve, there is a range of privacy settings allowing broadcasters to restrict viewership to specific friends or to a whole friends list. Selecting “Anyone can watch my games” will place the stream on the game’s hub area on Steam. Users will even have the option to broadcast their desktop.
Live streaming is becoming an increasingly popular element of games culture. Formed in 2011, Twitch TV is the dominant platform, streaming content over the internet to around 45m regular viewers. Anyone can use the service to share footage of themselves playing games, but the site also hosts and promotes top channels, which show major eSports events and tutorials by the top professional players. In august, the site was purchased by Amazon for $1bn.
Currently the Steam Broadcasting service is more limited than Twitch. Users can watch footage on a variety of browsers but can only currently stream content from a Windows 7 or 8 PC, though support for Linux and Mac platforms is promised.
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