Like Kleenex for tissues or Band-Aid for bandages, Twitch has become the generic descriptor for video game streaming. The Justin.tv spin-off started in obscurity, but went on to get purchased by Amazon for nearly $1 billion, and is now the 12th most visited website in the United States. Its wide appeal has brought the likes of Deadmau5, Drake and various esports teams to the platform.
It's been difficult for other streaming websites to compete, but a few have squeezed through the cracks to fill the niches Twitch can't occupy. And as Twitch gets inundated with risque streamers and occasionally toxic chat rooms, here are some options for gamers looking for something different.
It's no surprise that YouTube, the world's largest video website, has a dedicated streaming platform built for gamers. YouTube Gaming offers the same video player that users have become accustomed to for the past 13 years on YouTube, but it comes wrapped in a special skin that puts gaming content front and center. It's a great place to find streams of top games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite and Minecraft, not to mention the trove of YouTube's existing on-demand gaming content from creators like Rooster Teeth and Markiplier. And YouTube recently signed a deal with FaceIt to broadcast the Esports Championship Series (ECS) for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Microsoft, too, has a streaming platform to compete with Twitch, and it's called Mixer. The company claims that with its Faster Than Light (FTL) streaming protocol, Mixer gives users less than a second of latency between what's happening in-game and what's being streamed to users. That's opposed to the 10-20 seconds found on other streaming platforms. And for some games, like Minecraft, viewers can directly interact with the game using Sparks, a form of currency inside Mixer. The platform has a slew of perks for Xbox One streamers, like USB webcam support and more overlay options. Its co-streaming feature allows you and up to three of your friends to stream at the same time. Also, if you're a fan of Microsoft's competitive titles — like Halo, Gears of War and Forza — Mixer is the best place to watch.
Stream.me is one of the platforms diving headfirst into the world of esports; instead of waiting for big publishers to come to it to broadcast, Stream.me hosts its own tournaments. The site is the exclusive home of the Cell Games, a weekly Dragon Ball FighterZ tournament series, as well as War of the Gods, a similar circuit for Injustice 2. And it has its own PUBG Invitational, puts on a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament and hosts streamer contests with more than $150,000 in prize money already doled out.
Caffeine is a new streaming platform that takes a social media approach to connecting viewers and streamers. Kind of like a Facebook or Twitter feed, the platform allows users to scroll through its various broadcasts. Caffeine doesn't place a traditional chat window to the side, but instead has chat bubbles that appear below the stream, similar to what you see in a group text. Unfortunately, Firefox support for Caffeine is iffy and Edge support is nonexistent. Caffeine works best with Chrome.
Niconico is a popular Japanese streaming website with a live section. It's not the easiest site to navigate, but it's a good place to catch Japanese gaming tournaments like Tokaigi, which features games like Arms, Splatoon, Street Fighter V and Tekken 7. Niconico is also the only game-streaming app currently available on the Nintendo Switch, though you'll need a Japanese eShop account to access the app.
Facebook probably isn't the first place to come to mind when you think of video game streaming. But the social media giant recently signed deals with major esports leagues to become their official streaming partner. So, if you want to watch Heroes of the Dorm, a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament; ESL One, a tournament league for Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Street Fighter V; or the Paladins Premier League, Facebook is your only bet to get in on the action. The company also recently introduced a monetization system for content creators, so don't be surprised if you see a few of your favorite streamers pop up on Facebook from time to time.
While Mirrativ might not bill itself as solely a game streaming platform, it does afford some advantages for fans of mobile games like Clash Royale, Game of War and Color Switch. The Mirrativ app can stream whatever is happening on screen natively, directly from within your phone. This means that for mobile-gaming streamers, there's no need for external streaming hardware.