The complete guide to streaming games on Twitch

Here you will learn how to become a game-streaming master.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
5 min read

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Game streaming has grown to become a huge part of the Internet. It's so big that Amazon and Google were both looking to spend big bucks to acquire top game streaming website Twitch. The deal eventually went to Amazon, which spent $970 million dollars for the service. That amount may seem odd for people who aren't familiar with the service, but Twitch's traffic is huge. In fact, Twitch gaming streams generate more traffic than HBO Go.

Interested in broadcasting your gameplay to the world? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about setting up a Twitch game stream.

Creating an account

The first thing you will want to do is sign up for a free account over at Twitch.tv. You aren't required to have an account to watch or comment on streams, although you do get more features by signing up for one. In addition to creating your own videos, signing up for an account will allow you to message and interact with other users, follow streams, and more.

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Once you have created your account, I recommend going to the Twitch settings, clicking on the Channel and Videos tab, and checking the "Automatically archive my broadcasts" box. This won't save old streams forever, however they will be stored on your channel for the next 14 days. You will also have the ability to export older broadcasts to YouTube and create video highlights that will be saved on your Twitch channel forever.

Now the fun begins. It's time to start choose your streaming platform.

Choosing your platform

You can stream games directly from your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One game consoles, or on your PC using additional software.

Streaming on a PlayStation 4

It's relatively easy to stream on the PlayStation 4. All you need is the console, a DualShock 4 controller, a game to play, a stable Internet connection, and a PlayStation 4 camera, which will allow others to see and hear you.

You first need to login to your account. To start, press the Share button on the controller while playing a game. Select Broadcast Gameplay, followed by Twitch, click on "Go to the Twitch website," and login to your account. To actually begin broadcasting, once again press the Share button, select Broadcast Gameplay, followed by Twitch, and click Start Broadcast.

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It's as easy as that. You can view Twitch comments and tweak your steaming settings by pressing the Share button while streaming and selecting Broadcast Settings.

Streaming on an Xbox One

It's a little more complicated to start streaming on the Xbox One. You will need a console, an Xbox One controller, an Xbox One Kinect camera, a stable Internet connection, and a game to play.

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Sign in to your Microsoft account and download the free Twitch app from the Xbox Live store. Once it has been installed, open the app and click on Broadcast. A 6-digit code will appear on the screen which you will have to enter at the Twitch website to activate the device.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

The Xbox privacy settings must be set to Adult before you can begin broadcasting your own gameplay. This can be done by going to the Xbox settings, clicking on the "Privacy & online safety" option, and selecting "Adult default." In the Preferences section of the settings menu, make sure the "Allow broadcasts and Game DVR uploads" option is enabled.

To broadcast, open the game you would like to play and say "Xbox Broadcast." You can also start the broadcast inside of the Twitch app. To stop your broadcast, use the voice command "Xbox Stop Broadcast."

Streaming from your PC

Streaming from a PC isn't nearly as easy as it is on the PS4 or Xbox One, but it's nothing you can't handle. You should know, however, that not every computer is capable of streaming, While the requirements change depending on the games you plan to stream, I recommend having at least 4GB of RAM, a high-end graphics card (GeForce or Radeon with support for DirectX 10.1) , and a powerful processor, such as a second generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7.

These specs will make it easy to stream popular games like Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Titanfall, or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. As is the case with streaming on the PS4 and Xbox One, you will also want a camera and a stable Internet connection, in addition to a headset with a microphone.

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There are a variety of programs available for broadcasting your gameplay, but I found the easiest way to stream is using a software called XSplit Gamecaster. Create an account on the XSplit website and download the Gamecaster software. Once it has been installed, launch the program, login into your XSplit account, and grant Gamecaster access to live stream to Twitch. This can be done by clicking on the "Open Authentication Window" box and signing into your Twitch account.

Then just simply launch a game you want to broadcast, click the CTRL and Tab key after it has launched, and select the "Stream" option. From this menu you can also enable your webcam, change video and audio settings, and more.

While the Gamecaster software is free and easy to use, it does have its flaws. The company charges a monthly fee for a premium license, which opens the door to more features. Without the license, your HD streams will include a watermark of the company's logo and your frame-per-second will be limited.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

If this is a problem for you, I recommend checking out Open Broadcast Software. The program, which is also known as OBS, is open source and available for free. It can be a bit more complicated to use, but this guide from Twitch will help you get started.

Finding a game and building an audience

The hardest part about streaming isn't setting up the software, it's building an audience. No one wants to have a stream with no viewers. That's why I spoke to current game streamers about what new users could do to build an audience.

Choose a popular game

Most people aren't going to watch a streamer who plays an unpopular game. The people I spoke to recommended choosing new games or older ones with large followings. Dota 2 and League of Legends are both incredibly popular, as are first person shooters like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Titanfall, and Call of Duty. Other games to check out include Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Starcraft II, Day Z, FIFA, and Madden.

Be good at the game you choose

No one wants to watch someone die over and over again. You should be relatively good at the game you plan to stream.

Keep to a schedule

Try to be consistent and keep to a schedule to make it easier for viewers to follow you.

Be entertaining

You have to do more than just play the game. You have to entertain your audience. Make jokes, comment on pop culture, talk about current events, do something to keep them coming back for more.

Promote yourself on social media

Use platform like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to inform your audience about new streams, gaming new, and upcoming promotions.

Keep them coming back for more

Whether it's skins for CS:GO, Riot Points on League of Legends, or an in-game item on World of Warcraft, people love free stuff. Giveaways are a great way to build an audience, but be sure to make it a requirement that those entering into your giveaway are also following your stream.