There are many companies out there trying to capitalize on the whole "watch other people play video games" phenomenon, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, but Microsoft just made a purchase that could put it ahead of the others.
On Thursday the company announced that it has purchased Beam, a six-month old company that, like Twitch, that allows people to watch their friends play video games. Beam, however, comes with with one important twist: it lets the streaming actively participate in the game along with those who are playing.
That means making it possible for streamers to involve viewers in their gameplay, letting those who are watching, for example, choose their weapons and make quests for them, in real time. Basically, it takes away the passive nature of much of the space and finally makes it interactive.
No financial terms of the acqusition were disclosed, but it was revealed that Beam will become part of the Xbox team, where it can be integrated into games like Minecraft, which Microsoft bought for $2.5 billion in 2014.
"We at Xbox are excited about this convergence between playing and watching, and want to provide gamers with the freedom and choice to have great multiplayer experiences across all of Beam’s platforms. This acquisition will help gamers enjoy the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want," Chad Gibson, Partner Group Program Manager at Xbox Live, wrote in a blog post.
For those who currently use Beam, not much will be changing, according Matt Salsamendi, the company's co-founder and CEO, wrote in a blog post.
"We’re continuing our focus on providing streamers with the tools they need to create the most interactive broadcasts around. Beam is designed to work with any game, and we’ll continue to offer broadcasts across all gaming platforms, just as we do today," he said.
By becoming part of Xbox, Beam will have the ability to scale faster, and Salsamendi promises his users "awesome new features, epic new interactive game integrations, and a huge influx of new community members!"
Salsamendi will continue to lead the Beam team in Redmond, now as part of Team Xbox within the Engineering group.
Live game streaming
The eSports category, which includes live video game streaming, has become big business.
Perhaps the most famous company in the space is Twitch, which became an extremely hot property in 2014, with Google and Amazon fighting over it, before it was finally acquired by Amazon for nearly a billion dollars.
In 2015, Twitch users watched more than 459,000 years-worth of video, with 550,000 average concurrent viewers. There were over 421 monthly minutes watched per viewer. As of last summer, the company was said to have nearly half of the $3.8 billion video game content industry.
The other big platform for video game streaming is YouTube, with personalities like PewDiePie, who makes videos as he comments on his own gameplay, racking up millions of subscribers.
Most recently, it was Facebook that started getting in on the action, teaming up with Blizzard Entertainment to incorporate Facebook’s Live API to create its own “Go Live” streaming. Through that platform, users are able livestream their games to their Facebook timelines, allowing their friends to subscribe and be notified when new streams become available.
There's a good reason so many of these companies want to get in on this space: the global eSports market is expected to grow from $748.8 million in 2015 to over $1.9 billion by 2018.
(Image source: blog.beam.pro)