Valve's latest Steam update carries a little something extra aside from the usual bug fixes. Now, players can stream their games on Steam, and watch as their friends play, with Steam Broadcasting.
Initially announced in December for beta testers, Steam Broadcasting seems to be Valve's answer to Twitch, and it's fairly easy to use. There are no extra setups required because any game you start up on Steam begins streaming automatically and will also automatically end when you're done playing. Friends will see that you're playing a game and will now have the option to watch you play.
By default, friends will need to request your permission to watch gameplay, but changing the broadcast settings allows immediate access to your friends or even the entire public. For those who don't want to stream at all, they can also disable the broadcasting feature completely. Players can also watch an entire catalog of public streams in the Community tab on Steam.
It's important to note that while Steam Broadcasting is now available to everyone, not everyone can use it, as it's still in beta. For starters, only Windows 7 and 8 users can stream their games. Support for Mac, Linux and Windows Vista players will come in the future. Those who love commentating during their game won't be able to do so because the current version only supports audio that comes out of the PC's speakers.
Unlike Twitch's archiving feature, Steam Broadcasting won't save any streams for later viewing. Valve also noted that during the beta, some of the first streamers will be able to stream much more of their content than others who come later, because "broadcast capabilities are limited on a first-come, first-served basis," according to the FAQ page. This is because later users won't get enough bandwidth from their nearest Steam server. We reached out to Valve for more information and will update accordingly.
With this addition to Steam, Valve is becoming very close to being the one-stop shop for any PC gaming. Its Steam store has a huge catalog of games ranging from popular titles to small indie games that make their way to the spotlight thanks to Steam Greenlight and Early Access, and its annual sales always attract buyers.
Now, Steam Broadcast ensures that Steam users will never have to leave the program again to find more content. A big test for Steam Broadcasting will be the next installment of The International, Valve's Dota 2 championship, later this year in August. Having Steam Broadcast will not only funnel viewers to Steam Broadcast, but it could also open new avenues in the way content is streamed for Valve-exclusive games.