Video games have always been a competitive sport. Back in the day, slot machines had their own pixelated leaderboards, and every kid wanted to be the one with the highest scores in their area. With the advent of the Internet and the release of iconic first-person shooters such as Doom and Counter Strike, players from all over the world began to flock together. In 1997, one of the first eSports organizations, the Cyberathelete Professional League, was created. Since then, the gaming world has stepped forward towards online gaming and streaming. Let’s consider the phenomenon in more detail.
Over the past four decades, online gaming has become one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global online gaming industry was worth approximately $56 billion in 2010! It’s bigger than a magazine or the music industry, and about two-thirds the size of the film industry. According to a 2011 report by the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer in the US is 37, and 42 percent of those gamers are women.
One of the biggest trends in live streaming today is not music (as you might have guessed earlier), but competitive gaming. Esports today attracts thousands of spectators. Today, a number of sites designed specifically for gamers and their fans broadcast esports events. Several esports websites have spread all over the internet as live streaming takes competitive video gaming to a whole new level, turning it into a sport watched by millions of people, not just for insiders.
Video game streaming: big players
Today, major players in video game streaming include Own3D.tv and TwitchTV. Own3D.tv began streaming online video games in 2010, and the website currently generates over four million unique viewers per month for live video game streams. In March 2011, the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the largest gaming league in the world, streamed via Own3D the Intel Extreme Masters event, which is one of the most popular gaming tournaments of the year. With a $400,000 prize pool, the gaming tournament attracted 75 000 simultaneous viewers live on the days of individual events, and the total audience reached several million players. In June 2011, over 200,000 viewers simultaneously watched the Dreamhack competition (based on another popular game League of Legends) on Own3D, with around 250 Gb/s traffic during the event.
And live streaming provider Justin.tv has seen esports video streaming grow at such a rapid rate that they have dedicated an entire website to it. In June 2011, they launched TwitchTV after video game streaming on its main website reached around 3.2 million unique views per month. TwitchTV attracts over 12 million unique monthly viewers. In addition, it has had a solid monthly growth rate of 11 percent since launch. In addition, TwitchTV has over 1,000 premium partners. It also received over 80,000 downloads of its iPhone mobile app in less than a month after the app was launched. Between October 10 and October 16, the site received huge traffic, as can be seen from the following numbers:
Total hours watched: 6,737,250
Weekly Unique Viewers: 4,214,057
Total hours watched per unique viewer: 1.6
Weekly Unique Chats: 309,220
Peak concurrent viewers per stream: 125,862
Peak concurrent viewers of all game content: 165,250
Video Game Streaming: Popular Genres
Here are some of the most popular genres in video game streaming online:
Adventure (Assassin’s Creed II, Lego, Lost Planet)
Strategy (StarCraft II, Total War, Worms)
Sports games (FIFA, NBA 2K10, MLB 2K10)
Shooters (Modern Warfare 3, Bad Company 2, Left 4 Dead 2)
Role-playing (Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age)
Racing (Need for Speed: The Run Walkthrough Part 1!, GP2 Asia Series 2011)
Simulations (The Sims)
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – MMORPG (World of Warcraft, Hydra 9)
Streaming games online: the legal side
By now, you may already know, or at least have heard of, the new video streaming ban bill S.978. It is currently not illegal to stream, for example, a walkthrough of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 online as it is considered a public performance. However, such a bill would make such videos illegal. At first glance, this bill might seem like a great idea as it helps curb piracy, but since some parts of the bill are rather vague, it could lead to some issues for members of the media/gaming enthusiast community.
However, it is also possible that game developers and publishers may decide not to pursue streaming gamers, thereby leaving things as they are. Given the vast number of such videos available online, it would be rather optimistic to believe that game developers and publishers would have the time and money to prosecute users every time they break this alleged law. In addition, online video game streaming has created a win-win scenario for all parties involved.
Game Streaming: A Win-Win Situation for Everyone
On sites like Own3D.tv and TwitchTV, most of the traffic comes from gaming events. However, these websites also provide video streams of gamers playing popular video games at any time. Some of these gamers are just amateurs who enjoy showing off their gaming skills to other players, while some actually belong to professional gaming teams and are gearing up for the next tournament.
In addition, gamers today are increasingly monetizing matches as live streaming video games offer them another way to earn money and make a living. Live streaming video game websites such as Own3D.tv and TwitchTV have revenue sharing agreements with professional gaming partners. The most common types of monetization include ads, subscriptions, and pay-per-views.
For example, TwitchTV has a revenue sharing plan where they sell ads to the player stream and the profits are shared between them. TwitchTV also includes automatic transcoding, where viewers can switch between different quality settings depending on the connection. In addition, partners also get early access to the latest technology from Twitch, as well as the opportunity to test new features.
The companies are also on the winning side. Tsvetan Dragulev, CEO of Own3D.tv, explained that they get 90 percent of their video views from professional gaming teams and events that require higher CPM rates compared to traditional user-generated video streams. In addition, advertisers also like the fact that they serve a well-defined audience. So everyone is happy – well, I guess there is no one happier than gamers!