In a Microsoft blog post, Team Xbox announced that the company has acquired interactive livestreaming service Beam, which allows users to watch and play along with their favorite game streamers.
The Seattle-based company, according to Xbox Live Partner Group Program Manager Chad Gibson, has transformed the passive, watch-and-chat game streaming experience into an interactive one that allows viewers to participate in real time.
Beam is built around gamification features that not only encourage stream viewers to participate, but also reward them. Users accumulate Beam XP as they watch and interact through the service, with the points to be used on in-game votes, cosmetic upgrades and other perks within the system.
Similar to popular game streaming service Twitch, Beam provides an SDK to game developers to integrate the interface into their games. The interface of Beam, however, was built to display icons that can be tapped on both desktop and mobile platforms, with these icons serving as the means of interaction between viewers and streamers.
Microsoft is purchasing Beam as part of its commitment to make the Xbox Live network more social and fun. To illustrate how Beam's technology can be applied to Xbox Live, the highly addictive block building game Minecraft was used as an example.
With Beam, users are not only limited to watching their favorite streamers play Minecraft, as they can also give them challenges to accomplish and help in making real-time choices that will affect the streamer's gameplay, including which tools to use, the quests to pursue and the locations to go to.
What makes Beam's interactive experience possible, however, is the ultra-low latency that the company's technology provides. According to Beam, there is an average difference of only 200 milliseconds between the events unfolding in a game and when the viewers see it. This leads to a very smooth interaction between viewers and streamers, as it would feel like they are all sitting in the same living room.
Microsoft rolled out the latest system update for the Xbox One and the Xbox app a couple of weeks ago. Named the Xbox Summer update, it brought with it a massive list of new features and improvements to the gaming system such as Microsoft's digital personal assistant Cortana, the merging of the Xbox Store and the Windows Store and an improved game collection interface.
By adding Beam into the fold, Microsoft now has a dedicated game streaming service for the Xbox gaming console, allowing the company to establish a foothold into the growing e-sports market and further expanding the capabilities of the Xbox One and the Xbox Live network.