Over the last 24 hours, Xbox Live spokesman Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb has been showing off the Xbox One’s Twitch streaming capabilities—and they’re pretty impressive.
As opposed to Sony—who worked on the PS4’s Twitch integration themselves—the Xbox One’s app has been developed by the folks at Twitch. Because of this, there’s a very distinct difference in style between the two options: on the PS4, it all feels like an integrated part of the OS, while on the Xbox One, it definitely looks like a separate, branded app.
While I can appreciate the direction that Sony went in, from what I’ve seen of the Xbox One’s Twitch app so far, I really like it. The overall interface seems cleaner and more polished, and the chat stream sits in a snapped column on the right side—complete with iconic Twitch emoticons. It’s a very nice setup, much more so than the two lines of more generic-looking chat on the PS4.
Unsurprisingly, the Kinect sensor can be used for picture-in-picture video of the player doing the streaming, giving a wide shot of the room that can be placed in any one of the four corners of the screen. I’m not sure which I like better—the implementation on the Xbox One, or how the PS4 does it. On the PS4, it can zoom in on the player’s face, but not show more than a boxed area. So, if you have multiple people playing, there’s no good way to account for that. Meanwhile, the Xbox One can easily show a number of local players at the same time, but there’s no option for zooming in on you if you’re going solo.
There are some other really interesting elements to Twitch on the Xbox One. Streams are archived automatically on the Twitch website for later viewing—an option that was initially available for the PS4, but which mysteriously disappeared just a few days after launch. Through the Xbox One’s follower system, you can follow your favorite gamers, and then be notified by a pop-up whenever they go live—a very cool feature.
One of the biggest surprises, however, is the resolution of Twitch streams on the Xbox One. I don’t think it’s out of line to say that Microsoft’s new system has gotten beaten up lately over the fact that many cross-platform games are running at higher resolutions or framerates on the PS4 versus the Xbox One. This time, however, Microsoft gets the win in pixel count. Twitch streaming on the Xbox One can run at a maximum of 1280 x 720, 30fps, 2.5Mbps max bandwidth; the PS4’s internal streaming options max out at 960 x 540, 30fps, 1.7Mbps.
What I find most interesting about all of this is that streaming—and sharing overall—was such a heavily pushed concept of the PS4, right from the moment that the system was first unveiled. Now, in a key area of that concept, the Xbox One looks to be doing a better job. Of course, there’s a few potential reasons for this. First, Sony came out of the gate with support for both Ustream and Twitch. This gives players more options for how and where they stream—but if Microsoft was willing to focus their efforts specifically on Twitch, that could be why the streaming company was willing to work with them on a more robust app. Also, the PS4 had streaming options from the start, where as the Xbox One is getting them four months later. It’s entirely possible that Sony wanted to get livestreaming features out and usable for PS4 owners, and then come back and polish them up later.
I have no doubt that Sony’s efforts in this regard helped push Microsoft to make a better solution for their own platform—or, maybe, think to integrate livestreaming into the system in the first place. Now that the Xbox One’s Twitch integration is looking so good, hopefully it’ll be the encouragement Sony needs to make their options even better.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect example of why competition between gaming hardware is a good thing: both platforms look to get better in the process of trying to one-up each other.
…oh, and one other thing: kudos to Microsoft for the fantastic animation (screen capped below) that comes up when on the Xbox One when you’re livestreaming and momentarily go out of your game to do something else.