Valve revealed a new feature for Steam on Tuesday called Steam Broadcasting, allowing players to watch their friend’s gameplay live as it happens. The beta for Steam Broadcasting is currently open to everyone.
With Steam Broadcasting, Valve now enters the streaming market with other services like the gaming-focused Twitch or Ustream. By opting into the Steam Broadcasting beta version through the Steam client under account settings, you can now watch any gameplay or stream your own. Steam Broadcasting doesn’t require any additional video capture hardware or programs to stream gameplay.
Various privacy settings can be chosen to limit who can or can’t watch your gameplay. Friends requesting to watch your game is the default setting. If you or a friend has their setting to allow anyone from their friend’s list to automatically watch the game they’re playing, they don’t need to send a request. You can also open up your streams to the public, having anyone on Steam watch your games or only people you personally invite.
You automatically start broadcasting based on your privacy settings, like when a friend decides to join in, someone from the public starts watching or you send an invitation. By clicking on a person’s profile as they’re in a game or from the friend’s list where a “Watch Game” choice is now available you can begin viewing a friend’s stream. There’s also a chat menu and viewer count for each video. Ending the game finishes the broadcast.
Each game’s community hub on Steam now has a public broadcast section to watch people play, as shown with the Team Fortress 2 broadcast page. Games can be watched through the Steam client or in an Internet browser from Steam’s community section while logged in with a Steam account.
Steam Broadcasting currently supports Google Chrome and Apple Safari but not Mozilla Firefox. Valve’s streaming feature only works on Windows 7 and Windows 8, with OSX, Linux and Windows Vista support coming later.
Depending on the power of the user’s PC, gameplay quality might be affected by streaming. The streamer can change the video’s bitrate and dimensions for technical improvements. Gameplay quality will also be possibly negatively affected as a result of Steam Broadcasting being in beta.
Viewers can also watch the streamer’s desktop if that user has the option selected. Valve outlined a set of banned streaming topics, such as pornography, copyrighted content, leaked material, talk about piracy, cheating or exploits, raffling, auctions or referrals and any form of abuse and discrimination.
Archiving broadcasts is currently not supported so streams are live-only. Broadcasts cannot be monetized and there are no options to subscribe to a Steam user.
Valve did not specify how long Steam Broadcasting would be in beta form. Players can give the company feedback, report issues and seek answers for technical problems on the feature’s group page.
Valve created an FAQ for Steam Broadcasting with additional information.