Start your live streaming engines
Streaming video games is an totally straightforward concept: someone plays a game and streams it live to the internet, and you watch. But why just sit by idly and let your favorite streamers have all the fun?
You can set yourself up to stream like a pro with a moderate level of technical knowledge.
There are a ton of different solutions out there for someone looking to stream their favorite games. Both the Sony PS4 Pro and Microsoft Xbox One X have streaming capabilities baked right in. If you're a PC gamer, taking your gameplay live is often as easy as punching in a few keystrokes.
As simple as streaming is once you're setup, getting to the point of Twitch superstardom can be a little daunting. For example, what if you want to stream a console like the Nintendo Switch, where there is no native streaming support? What services should you use? How about software?
This guide should help you get up and running under a variety of different scenarios, from modern PC games to consoles to even streaming retro games. Your mileage may vary, but there are enough different ways to broadcast live gameplay that you're bound to find something to fit your preferences.
So let's begin.
As mentioned before, the PS4 and Xbox One have streaming built into their operating systems. If you want to stream footage from other consoles, you're going to need a capture card or a personal video recorder (PVR) such as the Razer Ripsaw, Hauppauge HD PVR 60 or Elgato HD 60S.
A capture card is a pretty straightforward piece of hardware that sits between your console and your television, grabbing the HDMI signal and outputting it to your computer. Instead of hooking up HDMI directly from your console to your HDTV, you go from the console, to the capture card, and from the capture card into the television.
There's one more connection, which is (usually) a USB cable from the capture card to your computer. Boom. Simple.
You don't need to use the Xbox One or the PS4's streaming, either. You can run the consoles through a capture card and use whatever software you prefer to handle your streams.
Camera and microphone
If you want to stream like a pro, you need to get your face out there, and you need to interact with your fans. Even if you have just a few viewers on your stream, the experience is made better by being able to talk to them while their comments pop up in chat.
If you have a webcam and a mic built into your laptop, great. You've taken the first step. But the problem is, those built in devices are so basic. Every click of the trackpad or keystroke gets picked up, and sound quality is roughly akin to talking into a soup can via a taut piece of twine.
Software: XSplit, OBS, or something else?
A capture card is all well and good, but once it hits your computer, it needs to send that video into the vast digital sea. There are a lot of software solutions out there. Some cards, like the Elgato series, come with their own solid streaming solutions.
In fact, I prefer some aspects of the Elgato Game Capture HD over the other programs I've used. It has a dial to adjust your upload bandwidth and saves several different custom overlay configurations, for example.
But again, ultimately it's up to you to decide what features are most important in your broadcasting ecosystem.
It's kind of crazy how many streaming services are out there: Uplay, Hitbox, Niconico, U-stream, but the biggest are probably YouTube and a plucky purple upstart called Twitch.
OK, obviously Twitch isn't a plucky upstart, but it is purple, and it's definitely the biggest site for streaming right now. But YouTube has some real advantages, like live "control room," which gives vital stats on stream health and other pieces of key info. YouTube also records your streams and then archives them for future uploads. In effect, it turns your streams into Let's Plays automatically.
You can also connect your streaming service to your streaming client, whether it's OBS or XSplit or something else. In Xsplit, it's as easy as signing in with your Twitch or YouTube account in the "accounts" tab.
OBS is considerably more complicated, but not impossible. The set-up is also one-time, so there's that.
Do it live!
Your webcam is in place. You mic levels are good and your green screen has deleted everything but you from the picture-in-picture. Now what? Well, you need to be entertaining. Which is actually easier said than done.
Invite some friends to watch. Encourage people to chime in on the chat. Even if there's just one person watching your stream, have a conversation. You're playing a game, sure, but anyone can play a game. A pro doesn't just play a game, the pros put on a show.
A combination of good equipment, a willingness to interact with viewers, and a desire to play games before a live audience are the pillars of streaming like a pro. Once you get yourself out there, the hard part begins: building an audience. It takes time, and it takes grit, but if no one's watching, you still need to have fun. Because otherwise, what's the point?