Video gaming has always been a competitive sport. Arcade boxes earlier had their pixelated high score charts, and every kid wanted to be the one with the top scores in his neighborhood. With the internet explosion and the release of iconic first person shooter games like Doom and Counter Strike, players from all over the world began to come together. In 1997, one of the first e-sports organizations, Cyberathelete Professional League was established. Since then the gaming world has leaped forward to online gaming and streaming. Let us take a closer look at the phenomenon.
The Rise of Online Gaming and Streaming
In the past four decades, online gaming has become one of the world's biggest entertainment industries. According to reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global online gaming industry in 2010 was worth around $ 56 billion! This is bigger than both the magazine or the music industry and about two-thirds the film industry's size. According to a 2011 report by Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer in the United States is 37 and 42 percent of these gamers are female.
One of the biggest trends today, in live streaming is not music (as you might have previously assumed), but competitive gaming. e-sports today, attracts thousands of viewers. A number of sites today, catering specifically to gamers and their fans stream e-sport events. Several e-sport websites have exploded all over the internet as live webcasts take competitive video gaming to a completely new level, transforming it into a sport that is viewed by millions from one which was limited to just insiders.
Video Game Streaming: The Big Players
Among the big players in video game streaming today are Own3D.tv and TwitchTV. Own3D.tv began online video game streaming in 2010, and at present, the website gets over four million unique viewers a month for video game live streams. In March 2011, Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world's largest gaming league, broadcasted the Intel Extreme Masters event, which is among the most popular gaming tournaments of the year, through Own3D. With $ 400,000 as prize money, the gaming tournament drew 75,000 simultaneous live viewers on single event days, while the overall audience reached several million gamers. June 2011 saw over 200,000 concurrent viewers watching a Dreamhack contest (which is based around League of Legends, another popular game) on Own3D, with about 250 GBps of traffic through the event.
And live video streaming vendor Justin.tv witnessed e-sports video streaming grow at such a rapid rate that they dedicated an entire website to it. In June 2011, they launched TwitchTV after video game streaming reached around 3.2million monthly unique views on its main website. TwitchTV now engages over 12 million unique viewers each month. Also it has had a steady month over month growth rate of 11 percent since it was launched. Besides that, TwitchTV has over 1,000 premium partners. It has also received over 80,000 downloads of its iPhone mobile app in less than a month of the app's launch. Between October 10th and October 16th the website received massive traffic as can be seen from the following figures:
Total Hours Watched: 6,737,250
Weekly Unique Viewers: 4,214,057
Total Hours Watched per Unique Viewer: 1.6
Weekly Unique Chatters: 309,220
Peak Concurrent Viewers on a Single Stream: 125,862
Peak Concurrent Viewers on all Gaming Content: 165,250
Video Game Streaming: Popular Genres
Here are some of the most popular genres in live online video game streaming:
Adventure (Assassin's Creed II, Lego, Lost Planet)
Strategy (StarCraft II, Total War, Worms)
Sport Games (FIFA, NBA 2K10, MLB 2K10)
Shooter (Modern Warfare 3, Bad Company 2, Left 4 Dead 2)
Role-Playing (Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age)
Racing (Need for Speed: The Run Playthrough Part 1 !, GP2 Asia Series 2011)
Simulation (The Sims)
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game – MMORPG (World of Warcraft, Hydra 9)
Streaming Games Online: The Legal Side
By now you might know or at least heard about the new bill related to anti-streaming video – S.978. At present, it is not illegal to stream, for instance a walk-through of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 online as it is considered to be a public performance. However, a bill like this would make such videos illegal. This bill might seem like a great thing at first glance as it helps curb piracy, but as parts of the bill are quite vague, it could lead to a few issues for members of the media / gaming enthusiast communities.
However, it is also possible that game developers and publishers may decide not to prosecute streaming gamers, thereby leaving things quite the same way as they are now. Given the huge number of such videos available on the web, it would be rather optimistic to actually think that game developers and publishers will have the time and money to pursue users every time they break this would-be law. Besides online video game streaming has generated a win-win scenario for all parties involved.
Game Streaming: A Win-Win Situation for Everyone
Websites like Own3D.tv and TwitchTV witness most of their traffic around gaming events. However, these websites feature live video feeds of gamers playing popular video games any time, as well. Some of these gamers are just amateurs who like to show their gaming skills to other gamers while some actually belong to professional gaming teams, and are preparing for the next tournament.
Besides, gamers today are increasingly monetizing matches as live video game streaming offers them another way of earning money and making a living. Live video game streaming websites like Own3D.tv and TwitchTV have revenue sharing deals with professional gaming partners. The most common types of monetization include ads, subscriptions and pay per views.
TwitchTV for instance, has a revenue sharing plan where they sell ads on the gamer's stream and the profits earned are split between them. TwitchTV also includes automatic transcoding, where viewers can flip between a variety of quality settings, based on their connection. Besides that partners also get early access to latest technology from Twitch as well as the ability to test out new features.
The companies are also on the winning side. Zvetan Dragulev, Own3D.tv CEO explained that they get 90 percent of their video views from pro-gaming teams and events that pull in higher CPM rates as compared to traditional user generated live video streams. Besides that, advertisers also love the fact that they are catering to a well defined audience. So everyone's happy – well, no one's happier than the gamers would be my guess!