Want to know more about Microsoft's newly acquired streaming platform? Here are some handy pointers.
So, Beam. You've heard about it more and more recently but you're not exactly sure what it is and how you can best enjoy it. That's OK, and it's why we're here to help. Microsoft acquired the service while still in its infancy in mid-2016, and we now know the service will be directly integrated into Xbox One and Windows 10. If you're curious and want to get your Beam on, here's 5 things to set you on your way.
1. Just what is Beam?
If you're familiar with Twitch it'd be an easy comparison to make with Beam. At its core, it's a live broadcasting platform allowing you to stream yourself doing, well, something. The majority audience is gamers, for both viewing and streaming, but it doesn't have to be about games. One of the marquee features of Beam is its low latency, which means streamers and their audience aren't separated by much of a delay. Which in turn means a more interactive, engaging experience.
There's a strangely enthralling channel run by a couple of truckers on the road, for example. If you have something to broadcast and the means to do so, you can do it on Beam.
It's free to sign up and you can do so either with an email address or by using existing Twitter or Discord accounts to log in.
2. Great, so how do you broadcast?
At the very basic level, you need something to broadcast and software to do it with. The two most popular options are XSplit and OBS, the former being a paid subscription and the latter being free. These are the conduits to which you will share your entertainment with the world through Beam. Setting up is easy on both, check out our comprehensive guide on how to get going.
From there on it's up to you how creative you get. Both XSplit and OBS allow you to add overlays, webcams, plugins and much more to make your stream look just how you want it to.
3. Watching Beam channels is one big game
One of Beam's standout features is the gamified nature and interactive elements. The boffins behind it didn't think you should always be limited to just watching your favorite broadcasters, they wanted you to be able to interact directly with the stream.
And so you can, if the person broadcasting enables the feature. As you watch or stream content on Beam you gain XP and sparks. The XP levels you up just as you would in a game and the sparks are basically Beam cash. You use them to unlock features if you're a streamer or you can use them to carry out interactive instructions in someone else's stream.
You're not just consuming on Beam, you're actively partcipating all the time you're there.
4. Mobile support
Beam has official mobile apps right now for Android and iOS, and both are pretty good. They also came pre-acquisition, and it has since been announced that support for Windows 10 and Xbox One will be coming in the not-too-distant future.
The mobile web client for Beam is, however, outstanding. You have full access to all features that Beam has to offer, which can't be said of the mobile apps for the iPhone and Android. Beam's site is generally a dream to use be it desktop or mobile, and it's a great experience in Edge on Windows 10 Mobile while we wait to see what the future brings.
5. The future of Beam streaming
The interactive features and super-low latency are part of Beam's FTL protocol. To use it right now requires that you stream using Tachyon rather than XSplit or OBS, but it's where all the special bits and pieces come to life. Beam is also actively testing high resolution and 60 frames per second streaming. These test streams are open for anyone to view, but needless to say the engineers there are already working on allowing 4K broadcasts.
And everything is delivered in HTML 5 from day one. No nasty Flash, no laggy plugins, just a light and speedy modern web experience.
At the Microsoft event in New York in October 2016, Beam announced they would be heading to Windows 10 with direct integration. Using the Game Bar (Windows key + G), gamers will be able to broadcast directly to their channels using a dedicated overlay.
Beam streams will also trend and populate in Xbox game hubs on Xbox consoles and in the Windows 10 app, giving streamers more exposure and giving viewers more options.
If you're going to be checking out some Beam in the near future, be sure to stop by our channel and catch our latest show every Friday evening, Microsoft, Minecraft and Libations! And hey, you might get to see Zac Bowden being blown up by Minecraft Creepers!