Not To Be Outdone, Twitter Is Expanding Their Esports Streaming

Image: Riot Games

When gamers think of streaming, Twitch and YouTube are the first platforms that come to mind. Facebook has made more of a push lately, and there's also rival streaming services that have taken hold across Asia.

The largest platform that's often left out of that conversation is Twitter. And while the platform is used regularly by the esports industry, it's not the first port of call when it comes to streaming gameplay. Twitter, however, wants to change that.

Olly Wilton, head of sports partnerships at Twitter Australia, explained over the phone to Kotaku that the platform aims to stream over 1500 hours of esports tournaments this year, with more than 15 events from ESL, Dreamhack, the Intel Extreme Masters circuit and Riot's Oceanic Pro League.

"The more people who are watching live content on Twitter, the more who tweet about it," Wilton explained. Twitter works with "sports leagues, broadcasters, talent" and their philosophy of bringing the "best content onto the platform" applies directly to esports.

The biggest hurdle, however, hasn't been the audience or even encouraging them to use Twitter. Twitter is already popular amongst the esports community as a tool for interacting with fans, organising matches, reacting to live events or responding to breaking events, sometimes more so than Facebook.

Teams regularly use Twitter as a tool for sharing highlights or short clips from live events, with leagues and organisations such as E-LEAGUE and ESL using it to great effect mid-broadcast.

The kicker has been accessibility. While Twitter has allowed people to broadcast live video via Periscope - which news reporters often make good use of - access to live broadcasting through Media Studio has been limited to a case-by-case basis.

Media Studio is Twitter's broadcasting tool that lets selected accounts push live video through Twitter and Periscope. It supports a maximum resolution of 1080p/60 FPS, with a bitrate cap of 3000kbps. That's sufficient for high speed action, like CS:GO or PUBG, but lower than the 4000kbps maximum bitrate through Facebook Live and half of the maximum bitrate supported by Twitch.

Still, for those that can broadcast through Twitch the return has been decent. The Halo World Championships last year had more than 10.3 million viewers through Twitter alone, making up the bulk of the 13 million-plus unique viewers across all platforms.

While the floodgates to broadcasting won't be opening for public users in the near term, Wilton confirmed that Twitter would be adding a "What's Happening" section on the Twitter page. The section would highlight the most recent live content, occupying real estate near the top of a user's timeline.

Specialised landing pages have also been available for various events, including Riot's OPL and presumably later this year, IEM Sydney. The pages let users watch an event while getting a live feed of all Tweets, much like the streaming experience you'd get through Twitch or YouTube chat.

A shot of the OPL live Twitter landing page. Image: Kotaku

As of now, however, the accessibility is the biggest problem. Users can't broadcast through Twitter with the same ease or functionality like they can with Facebook, Twitch or YouTube, and the lower bitrates may also be a stumbling block for those adamant about quality.

But the real value for Twitter going forward is its engagement. Wilton told Kotaku that there was around 280 million gaming related tweets on the platform, and that gaming was one of the largest categories related to entertainment. That's a useful selling point, especially as esports industry marches forward as an industry, at home and abroad.


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