Twitch Alternatives: Testing Out The Streaming Competition7 Aug 2014
Whether they’re the harbinger of an immanent Google buyout, or just the actions of a naive and panicking business, Twitch.tv’s new policy changes have resulted in a mini exodus of streamers. When a platform dedicated to streaming videogames goes all Library of Alexandria on its own archives and out of the blue starts muting 30 minute portions of recorded streams due to videogame music being present in a videogame stream, that’s probably a sign that it’s time to move on.
But where to go? There are a few Twitch alternatives out there for the displaced streamer. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but includes most of the names I’ve been hearing and reading over the past 24 hours. Here’s how I got on with each of them, from signing up to streaming a little Sleeping Dogs.
Why Sleeping Dogs? Because it’s great. Obviously.
Judging by what’s on the front page at the time of writing, Hitbox is where quite a few of the Twitch speedrunners have migrated to. It’s a game-focused channel and looks to be set up for those who wish to earning money while they stream (the option to drop a bunch of adverts into your broadcast is front and center,) but seems perfectly fine for casual play too.
It endeared itself to me by having clear, step-by-step instructions for setting up streaming via both XSplit and Open Broadcaster. Not something you’d need if you were a seasoned pro, but still welcome. I was up and streaming Sleeping Dogs in glorious, slightly wobbly 480p (blame my rubbish wireless internet for that resolution) in about ten minutes. There was a minimal delay on the broadcast of four or five seconds.
Streams can be automatically recorded and then saved as a permanent video on demand.
The only thing that may give you pause is the personnel link between Hitbox and the old Own3d.tv network that went under owing certain streamers thousands in revenue. René Weinberger (Chief Technical Officer at Hitbox) and Martin Klimscha (the CEO) were employed by Own3d, but finding out when they were at Own3d and how much responsibility they may have had for the collapse is a different matter entirely.
You’ll find variations on this theme posted across the internet, often with job titles and names being interchangeable. Depending what you read, the Hitbox pair were either responsible for everything, or nothing at all. Figuring out precisely what happened and when is not easy. When I asked Hitbox if they were able to clarify their links to Own3d, they directed me to this “Introduction to our Management” post which addresses some of the history.
A newly launched streaming platform, GamingLive.tv (as the name suggests) is also a game-centric site. It’s currently labelling itself as an alpha release, but is nonetheless taking open registration sign-ups. They perhaps shouldn’t be, though.
Unlike Hitbox, there wasn’t any kind of helpful guide for getting started and, presumably because they’re in alpha, no handy plugin for XSplit. Instead, I had to enter the slightly perplexing world of RTMP paths and custom XSplit broadcaster profiles. Neither the RTMP url nor the Stream key provided by GamingLive seemed to actually work, so after half an hour of messing about I just gave up. It didn’t really help that the majority of links on the site (including ‘Support’ and ‘Settings’) currently redirect to the modern equivalent of that 90s Under Construction gif.
Edit: As of 12 August, GamingLive do now provide a guide on how to actually start streaming.
It’s in alpha, so it gets some slack for that, but as of early August it’s clearly not ready for an influx of Twitch people.
This channel has connections to a dubious past as well. CEO Maciej Krupowies is the same fellow who ran the unpleasant-sounding gaming ‘Training House,’ Ministry of Win. There’s a bit of a theme developing here.
Ustream is a general streaming platform, so you’ll get everything on there from sports to 24/7 adorable kitten cams. Signing up was straightforward, although to my horror there was no category for ‘PC’ under their Gaming list. You let me down, UStream. They did have “classic videogames” though, and since all PC games are instant classics I guess that will suffice.
With the ‘Basic’ (ie; free) Ustream package, there’s no limit on your viewership numbers or how long they watch, but Ustream will bung adverts into the stream (pre-roll, mid-roll, overlays, the works) to offset their own costs. You won’t be seeing any of that revenue, so unless you’re super famous enough to make use of Ustream’s pay per view options then this is presumably a platform for casual game streaming.
For that purpose, it performed fine. As with Hitbox, I was able to stream Sleeping Dogs in my rubbish-wireless-internet-restricted 480p-o-vision with a few seconds of delay. XSplit has a Ustream plug-in too, so getting it up and running was no bother.
No dodgy history with game streamers as far as I could discover, so that might be a bonus. Video storage is limited unless you go for one of the ‘Pro’ plans.
Another general streaming site, and one that I’d never heard of until about 24 hours ago. This was a short-lived experiment, because although signing up was quick and painless any attempt to create a channel was met with the message “Oops, something went wrong” and a link back to the main Streamup page.
I couldn’t even manage to connect with any of the channels that were apparently “live” at that moment. Perhaps just an off day for another platform still in beta mode, but not a great sign of reliability.
Of the four streaming sites I looked at, only two were able to get me up and streaming in a painless manner. Hitbox.tv and Ustream serve different audiences and purposes, with the former being far more geared towards games. If you’re a disgruntled Twitch user, those may well be your best options. However, if Hitbox takes off in a major way, you can be sure that it’ll only be a matter of time before copyright issues raise their ugly head and the migration has to begin again.