Game Livestreaming: The Ultimate Setup
To be successful at game livestreaming, to reach the right audiences and show your best skills, you need to be ready to broadcast your game with these five things: streaming gear, a gaming device, broadcasting software, a livestream service and an internet connection.
As with anything that involves building a following, game livestreaming requires time and patience to grow an audience. If you want to make a living streaming, you’re building a business. Think about how to differentiate your channel and understand that you’ll make tradeoffs between price and performance when you purchase. (If you’re here for fun, you can still apply this article to your video game streaming!)
Streaming equipment is for injecting you, the personality, into the stream. You can upgrade your equipment over time, and you may already have items you can use to get started. Key streaming gear includes:
- Microphone – Capture your audio commentary and responses to viewers with a microphone—your PC mic is not the best microphone for streaming, but you don’t need a special streaming microphone. Consider a USB microphone. Start out with the Blue Yeti, a well-known, reliable brand. You can upgrade later to an XLR microphone.
- Gaming webcam – Get ready to capture…you! An entry-level 1080p standalone webcam works great. The best gaming camera is a DSLR or camcorder, but they’re pricey enough that there’s no need to buy one for first-time streaming.
- Studio equipment – Recording quality video means minding your angles and lighting. Invest in a tripod to hold the camera and a ring light to illuminate your face. The results are a lot better than placing random lamps to light things up.
Your type of streaming should guide your decision here. A channel for fully specced PC gaming requires a top-of-the-line gaming PC, whereas streaming Mario or Zelda titles requires Nintendo hardware. Some games are exclusive to certain platforms—make sure you know what you’re getting into. Gaming PC–building is a cottage industry. Each component could fuel a guide, so check below to see what to look for and find resources for further research.
If you’re getting into Mac computer gaming, you don’t have to worry about selecting processors or graphics processing units (GPUs) as much because Apple’s streamlined machines have the hardware built in, but custom-built gaming PCs have historically had the edge in specs, making Macs less popular for this purpose.
Gaming monitor – PC gamers need a dual-monitor setup: one for gaming and one for minding the livestream. (Console gamers can use one monitor or even none.) Your screens should support your graphics card and the resolution of your game. The refresh rate, the measure of how quickly the display changes the image onscreen, should be at least 120 Hz, per Tom’s Hardware’s excellent guide. You’ll need the right GPU and CPU (see below) to take advantage of a monitor with a high refresh rate.
Capture cards – Capture cards connect consoles to PCs for processing the video stream and simultaneous viewing (learn more at How-To Geek). Some consoles like PlayStation 4 and 5 and the Xbox One and Series X include some streaming capabilities natively and don’t require capture cards. The Nintendo Switch requires a capture card and some additional setup. (Note: If you want to stream on a service besides Twitch on Xbox, or heavily customize your stream on any platform, you’ll need a capture card for console gaming.)
Graphics card – A graphics card uses a graphics processing unit (GPU) and other specialized components to generate images. A high-quality graphics card is indispensable for gaming. These days they’re in high demand due to chip shortages and their use in mining speculative cryptocurrencies. PC Gamer has a guide for choosing a graphics card, but you can search for graphics cards compatible with the specific games you intend to play, as older (and cheaper) hardware may do the trick.
CPU – The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is a more generalized chip responsible for running most non-graphical operations on your machine. Again, Tom’s Hardware has a good CPU guide, calling out the Intel Core i5-12600K for its great balance between performance and price.
Gaming chair – The best gaming chair is a comfortable, ergonomic one you can sit in for hours (of course). You don’t need to start out in a Secretlab gaming chair. Some of the world’s top streamers use established office chair brands like Herman Miller. The chair from your work-from-home day job is perfect.
You also need software to compose your stream and broadcast it to a streaming service. OBS Studio and Streamlabs Desktop provide open source livestreaming software that allows you to configure your video to broadcast to a streaming service where it will be watched by your audience.
You also need a streaming service! This fast-moving marketplace has many video game streaming services, with the main players having shifted just in the last couple years. The most popular and well known is Amazon’s Twitch, but Facebook Gaming, Caffeine, Owncast and Mobcrush all have offerings as well.
Use your broadcasting software to configure your streaming resolution, or what your viewers see, which may differ from your gaming resolution, or what you see, depending on the hardware you’ve selected and your internet connection. HD resolution is 1080p, but streaming at a lower resolution (900p or 720p) may reduce strain on your system, particularly if you haven’t been able to upgrade your CPU yet.
Having your devices hooked up to an Ethernet connection is the best, most stable way to ensure both your game streaming and your camera video are consistent and high quality.
As far as speed goes, upload speeds really matter for livestreaming. This is the time to upgrade to fiber internet, so your uploads match your downloads. And get the fastest speed you can. Gigabit is a great choice. See you online!
Set up with the best connection: Frontier Fiber gig speed internet
Getting fiber—especially with speeds up to 2 Gig—is going to prepare you for great gaming. Frontier Fiber was rated Best Internet Service provider for gaming in US NEWS & World Report for 2021. Ready, set, Frontier Fiber! Check here to see when it’s available at your address.
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