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Steam.tv Hands-on: Can It Take Down Twitch?

It looks like Valve wants to cash in on some of that yummy Twitch money.

No longer content with its old, underwhelming streaming feature that let any Steam user broadcast their gameplay, Valve has taken it upon themselves to develop something newer and ritzier. Here's what we know about Steam.tv, a Twitch competitor that's made a surprise arrival.

What is Steam.tv?

Revelations about Steam.tv's accidental unveiling came to us via CNET earlier today, who got Valve to admit that the streaming platform was a real thing and went live by "accident" as part of an internal test. It is now intentionally live. Currently, the only thing that's viewable is a livestream of the Dota 2 International.

From my firsthand experience with it, Steam.tv seems to be a slightly more aesthetically pleasing and competent version of Twitch. People are shouting incoherent nonsense and throwing emotes at each other like nobody's business in the chat, the stream quality is seriously crisp at 1080p and offers streaming in either 30 or 59 fps, and the overall execution is great so far.

Browser-based voice chat works wonderfully as well, though I was only able to test it in Chrome. With that said, shooting the breeze with a friend over mics while we watched Dota 2 and talked trash in the text chat was a seamless experience that puts other browser-based streamers (read: Youtube Gaming and Twitch) to shame.

Steam.tv also has the benefit of Steam's interface and ecosystem integration. This means Steam users on Steam.tv get to play ball directly through the accounts they already have, allowing for all their emotes and public profile data to be displayed. It's a neat way to meet new faces within the Steam community.

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Combine voice chat with Steam account integration and Steam.tv has basically ensured that you're all set to grab a drink or five and start cursing out the opposition while watching the Dota 2 International with your best buds.

I can venture a guess that Dota 2, CS:GO and other Valve games may at some point be broadcasted exclusively through the platform so that Valve can steal away all the potential streaming revenue these games hold. However, I have yet to see signs of whether Valve will integrate its Valve Anti-Cheat system or lucrative Team Fortress 2 hat-selling business model into the streaming service in order to accrue additional revenue.

Why Would Valve Launch a Steaming Service?

While Valve hasn't made any explicit statements yet regarding the breadth of Steam.tv's functionality or scope, it's not a bridge too far to guess that the company wants to capitalize on at least some of Twitch's popularity.

After all, Twitch has been profiteering off Valve games Dota 2 and CS:GO for some time now. Perhaps Valve simply wants to steal back those games' aforementioned streaming audiences for itself.

Or perhaps Steam.tv is set to completely overhaul the lackluster streaming functionality currently in place on Steam, or become the one-stop-shop for esports streaming content.

What's the end game here? Nobody knows. In the meantime, I suppose we'll have to keep watching Dota 2 until Valve adds a second channel to its in-house streaming network.

Credit: Tom's Guide / Valve