What do you need to start streaming games to Twitch or YouTube?
So you want to be the next PewDiePie, but you don't know where to start. That's okay, we're here to help!
You'll need a quality microphone and webcam to record your commentary and reactions as you play. Then, you'll need to get a capture card for your PC, especially if you're wanting to record or stream footage from an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console. Last but not least, you'll need reliable software to take all your input sources — microphone, webcam, gaming footage, and other video elements — and put it all together to be streamed or broadcast out to the masses.
Let's dive in!
Hardware you'll need to stream your gaming
Whether you want to broadcast on Twitch or make Let's Play videos for YouTube, there's definitely some equipment you'll want to invest in first. Before we even consider software choices, you need to make sure you've got quality equipment for capturing voice and video, so you can properly interact with your audience.
Sure, you might have a basic microphone kicking around or a gaming headset that's fine enough for in-game chat, but if you want to produce high-quality Let's Play streams or commentary videos, you're going to want a good microphone.
We recommend the Blue Yeti, a sturdy and reliable desktop microphone that's a favorite among streamers and podcasters alike. You get multiple record modes and direct controls for headphone volume, mute, and microphone gain. It connects via USB and requires no software to set up.
Looking for other great microphone options? Check out our list of best microphones for PC game streaming.
Once you've got your audio recording equipment figured out, you'll probably want a decent webcam setup to record your beautiful face as you play.
Most DSLRs can be used as webcams when connected to your computer via USB, so use one if you have one, as they will definitely produce the most professional quality video for your streams.
If you don't own a DSLR and don't really feel like dropping a small fortune acquiring one, there are many quality webcams for you to choose from. We suggest the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. It's a formidable webcam that simply clips onto your monitor and lets you record your game stream in 720p. It also features a built-in microphone with noise-canceling features, but again, you're probably better off getting a standalone microphone.
Looking for more great webcam options? Check out our list of best webcams for Windows.
So you've got the parts to put yourself on the internet, and streaming from your PC is easy — you just need the right software. But what about from your Xbox? For that, you'll need a capture card. You've basically got two options to consider — an internal capture card, which you'll need to install in your PC tower, or an external capture card that connects to your console and PC via HDMI. Check out our breakdown of the best capture cards, or keep reading for a quick breakdown of some of the best options,
Internal capture card
Internal capture cards have the benefit of taking a load off of your PC hardware and recording more efficiently at a higher quality. If you're able to install it in a dedicated stream-recording PC, you can easily record both your PC gaming and your console gaming without having to worry about splitting resources between running your games and the stream capturing software.
We recommend the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD, which allows you to capture and stream your gaming footage in up to 1080p at a reasonable price. It comes with both HDMI-in and -out ports, as well as a dedicated Hot Button, which allow you to quickly start recording even in the heat of battle and features LEDs to let you know when you're live.
Compatible with TwitchTV, Ustream, and XSplit Broadcaster, the AVermedia Live Gamer HD is ideal for anyone serious about streaming or recording gaming sessions.
Elgato's HD60 Pro is another internal capture card you should certainly consider. It can stream and record gameplay from your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U in 1080p at 60 FPS with extremely low latency. It can even record and stream at the same time. You get built-in streaming to Twitch and YouTube including the ability to add and record live commentary, as well as webcam and other overlays. It's the perfect marriage of quality and simplicity.
The only downside with the HD60 Pro is the included editing software, which admittedly lacks some key features and functionality. If you're serious about recording the highest-quality game streams, you'll be amazed by the HD60 Pro — as long as you're able to edit your epic montages with a professional video editing suite like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.
External capture card
If you've got a laptop that you were planning to use for streaming, installing a capture card inside it isn't going to happen. But there are external capture cards you can use instead. We recommend the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S, it can work with any modern console in crisp 1080p at 60 FPS. Simply connect the HD60 S to your computer via USB (it uses the modern USB-C standard), and connect your console to the HDMI-in port and your TV to the HDMI-out port and away you go. You'll be able to enjoy lag-free gaming while your footage is pulled onto your PC for recording or streaming. The HD60 S also features Flashback Recording, which allows you to go back and record up to five minutes of prior gameplay, perfect for those times when you pull off an epic maneuver only to realize you forgot to hit record.
And if you're an Xbox One or PS4 gamer and also want to record all your in-game party chat, you can with the Elgato Chat Link. This adapter sits inline between your console and microphone, splitting your audio into the live stream — it's a must-own accessory.
Elgato is a big name in game streaming and recording hardware, so you'll be in good company if you decide to go with their external capture card.
Software you'll need to stream your gaming
You've got your microphone, webcam, and your computer's set up with a capture card. The final step is figuring out what broadcasting/recording software you want to use to get your game footage and commentary to your audience in style.
XSplit offers up two awesome applications that should cover all the bases for streaming your gameplay to your adoring fans. XSplit Broadcaster gives you a full video production suite to customize the look of your stream. Set up your webcam and game capture as sources, customize your layout, then get to streaming!
XSplit Gamecaster makes things even easier, letting you click to stream or record your gaming and quickly add a webcam — with chroma key support if available. XSplit supports Twitch, YouTube, and Livestream, so you'll have the freedom to host your streams where you prefer.
You can download and start streaming with XSplit for free, but there are options to upgrade to a 36-month Personal or Professional licence for a monthly fee — probably worth considering once you're a proficient streamer.
Twitch's pretty decent guide for getting started is a great reference if you're only just starting out.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)
If you're looking for a free, open-source screen-recording software option, then Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is just what you want.
Given that this is open-source software, it certainly isn't the prettiest option out there, but it's absolutely free with some user-created plugins available. Choose between OBS Classic for Windows or OBS Studio that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Twitch's guide for getting started with OBS is a great resource if you're just starting out.
Gameshow is an ideal choice if you're looking for a powerful streaming tool that's dead easy to setup and use and jam-packed with features.
Dynamic editing lets you change and customize your stream on the fly, with templates and widgets for social media and interacting with your audience. Stream instantly to Twitch or YouTube, or record your gameplay to videos for later upload. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac and supports console capture for Xbox and PlayStation gamers.
Gameshow is the full package but also the priciest option, starting at $8.99 for a month-to-month subscription, or save 15% by committing for a year.
Once again, Twitch provides a great resource for beginner broadcasters starting out with Gameshow.
How do you stream?
Are you a streamer? What's your setup like and what are you using to let the world watch your gameplay? Sound off in the comments below!