Photo by Stefan Etienne / The Verge
Update 3:45PM ET, April 6th: Added a link to Streamlabs’ new OBS software for macOS, which recently launched. Also, this post has been updated to reflect that Windows Game Bar no longer allows broadcasting.
Video game streaming is something many enthusiast and casual players want to partake in, but getting a stream up and running on your preferred gaming platform can be a chore. Streaming gameplay involves sharing the games you play and your reactions in real time with a remote audience. It’s like bringing the entire internet into your game room while you’re trying to beat that last boss.
Currently, the most popular streaming platform in the world is Twitch, but there’s competition in the form of YouTube Gaming on mobile devices and Mixer, a Microsoft-owned streaming service used for Xbox and Windows.
Here’s how to stream your gameplay from any device you might be playing on, whether it’s a PC, the Xbox One, a PlayStation 4, a Nintendo Switch, or even Android or iOS. The only thing I won’t be able to teach you is how to get better at video games and / or be entertaining. That requires practice.
Before we dive into the specific setups for each platform, here are the most basic prerequisites for starting a stream, no matter what you’re gaming on: a gaming device, an external microphone or gaming headset, a webcam, a fast internet connection (both upload and download), Twitch / YouTube Gaming / Mixer accounts, and, obviously, at least one game title.
Streaming with Twitch
If you’re trying to reach a large audience (or be discovered and find the love of your life), your best bet is Twitch. Be prepared: if you want to broadcast your video game sessions to the biggest game streaming service in the world, you’re going to have to install a couple apps.
First, you have to sign up for a Twitch account and copy your stream key, a unique code that’s used to link and stream to your profile from the free broadcasting apps Twitch recommends. (Be sure not to share it.)
Now, decide whether or not you want a “basic” stream, which consists of a live video capture of whatever you’re playing, in-game audio, and your webcam and microphone. In that case, you can download a simple broadcasting app like Open Broadcast Software (OBS). It’s a powerful app, despite not having the prettiest user interface. Once installed, you’ll be prompted to enter your stream key so that OBS can communicate with your Twitch channel and actually, you know, stream something.
From there, you can select your source if you want OBS to stream from a specific window, your whole desktop, or whenever it detects a full-screen app (a game). Other options like audio levels, stream quality, and the like are available from the sub-menus.
If you want a more “professional Twitch partner” aesthetic, I’d recommend downloading Streamlabs’ version of OBS instead. It’s also open-source software, but it has a much more user-friendly interface for beginners and overlay templates for donations, branding, Twitch emotes, and even transition animations. Streamlabs recently launched a version of its OBS software for macOS.
Streamlabs OBS options
The setup wizard is simpler than the bare-bones OBS app, but you’ll still have access to relevant information, like desired stream quality, video, and audio sources. Once you’ve gone through the setup process, you can hit the “stream” button and go live with all of your customizations ready for every broadcast.
It’s a great app that requires some experimenting, but the results are worth it. After all, you want to become the next Ninja, don’t you?
Streaming with Mixer
Image: Alex Castro
Streaming directly from a Windows gaming PC to Mixer, Microsoft’s broadcasting service that competes with Twitch, used to be very simple. All that you had to do was launch the Windows Game Bar by pressing Windows key + G, and hit Broadcast to start. Microsoft has since removed that feature from its Game Bar, and now, streaming to Mixer is much like streaming to Twitch. Which is to say, the fastest, easiest way to do that is by using the same software that’s mentioned above, Streamlabs’ OBS, to get going.
Sign in with Mixer directly through Streamlabs OBS
You’ll first need to sign up for a Mixer account via its website. Once you’ve done that, you can sign into the account through Streamlabs OBS, which offers native integration. Part way through the setup, you’ll be asked to input a stream key. Currently, Mixer will create one in less than 24 hours for you to input. After that, you’ll be able to stream from your Windows 10 or macOS computer.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Streaming with Mixer
Due to Microsoft’s acquisition and integration of the video game streaming service Mixer, it’s included as the default streaming option for both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. On the Xbox One, Mixer has a clear advantage over Twitch because it’s more tightly integrated into the Xbox OS and supports third-party USB microphones and cameras. Twitch does not.
If you don’t yet have a Mixer account, I’d suggest getting on a PC or Mac and signing up via the website instead. It’s a far less painful experience than using the Xbox’s on-screen keyboard.
Once your account is set up, start streaming with Mixer by starting a game, holding down the Xbox button, moving right to the Broadcast tab, and clicking “Start broadcast.” The app wizard will provide options if you want a second player to join you, adjusting broadcast quality, having your mic / camera on or off, and so on. From there, you can hit the “B” button and begin your game session.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Streaming with Twitch
To get Twitch working on the Xbox One, there are a few more steps. First, you’ll have to stop by the Microsoft Store and download the Twitch app. Once that’s taken care of, open the app, and you’ll be greeted by a unique code that needs to be entered on the desktop via your Twitch admin account.
Now’s the time to sign up for Twitch via the website on a Windows 10 or macOS computer, if you haven’t already. After that, you can head back the Xbox One to opt to stream with Twitch from the app, instead of Mixer. Keep in mind: you won’t be able to use a camera over USB other than a Kinect (which has been discontinued). It’s far from ideal, but it’s doable.
Streaming with Twitch
Perhaps the PlayStation 4 is the easiest way to start streaming because the DualShock controller includes a dedicated “Share” button.
To start streaming for the first time, press the “Share” button on your controller, followed by “Broadcast gameplay,” select Twitch (the service offered), and then link your Twitch account information on the website using a PC or Mac. To capture your reactions while playing, you’ll need Sony’s PlayStation Eye camera. The video settings menu lets you customize the image box that overlays your gameplay.
Once that’s done, you’ll have to repeat a few of the steps again: press the “Share” button, then “Broadcast gameplay,” select your preferred service, title the broadcast, decide if you want comments enabled, in-game commentary (open-mic), set a video quality, and finally select “Start broadcasting.” To end the stream, hit the “Share” button again.
Streaming with YouTube
To stream your gameplay to YouTube, hit the “Share” button on your DualShock controller, select YouTube, and enter your login details. Also mirroring the Twitch method, if you want to add a face reaction camera to your YouTube stream, you’ll still need to buy a PlayStation Eye camera.
Once you’ve signed-in, tweak your broadcast settings like quality, stream title, and comments before you hit the “Start Broadcasting” button to kick off the stream.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
Hold your horses, Link
So you want to stream from your Nintendo Switch right out of the box? Too bad, there’s no official support for streaming to third-party services like Twitch and YouTube Gaming. It is possible to set up a stream. But to pull it off, you’ll need to buy an external HD capture card, which will have to be connected to a PC and your Switch dock.
Furthermore, you can only stream when in docked mode, so take that into account as well.
A capture card I’d recommend is Elgato’s HD60 ($179), which you can also use with a PS4 or Xbox One. From there, you’ll need to install broadcasting software on your PC that supports the capture card you bought, like OBS or XSplit.
From within either broadcasting app, you’ll have to select your source (the capture card with your Switch docked in), add your stream key, set broadcast details like video quality and a title, and hit the broadcast button to start streaming.
Of the current-generation gaming consoles, Nintendo has made the Switch the hardest to stream and reach an audience with by far.
YouTube Gaming setup on Android
The YouTube Gaming route
It’s surprisingly easy to start streaming mobile games from your Android phone to YouTube. First, download the YouTube Gaming app from the Play Store, select the broadcast button, and select your preferred stream quality (720p HD or 480p). From there, the app will ask you if you want to locally record your gameplay or stream it live to YouTube.
Once you’ve gone through the initial setup, choose the game you’re streaming (or scroll to the bottom and expand the list to just filter apps you have installed). Give your stream a title, description, and copy the share link to send out over your preferred social media.
Now, you can return to the game of your choice, where you’ll notice an overlay that includes shortcuts to settings, muting your microphone, turning your front-facing camera on / off, comments, and, of course, the centered stream button.
(An important note: anything you do on-screen will be broadcast to your viewers, including texts, passwords, and any personal information that you’d rather keep private. In this case, I’d recommend using your Android phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode to avoid interrupting your stream and spilling your beans.)
The Twitch route
As with the Nintendo Switch, it’s difficult to stream gameplay from an Android phone onto Twitch. First, sign up for a Twitch account from a computer. Next, you’ll need to pay the Settings app a visit, go to “About Phone,” tap your build number 10 times so you can unlock Developer Options, and from within the dev options list, turn on USB debugging.
Next, while you may not have to spend money on an external HD capture card, you will have to find a decent app for displaying your phone screen in a window on your computer. Vysor is an app that’s free to download and try out, but the quality is subpar. Instead, get the $10 annual subscription, which gives you control over bitrate and resolution, then thank me later.
Now that you’ve got USB debugging enabled, an app to display your phone screen on your PC, and a Twitch account (with stream key), you’ll have one more thing to do: download OBS for your desktop. From the OBS app, you can link your Twitch account, webcam, microphone, and a video source (the Vysor desktop app). Finally, you’ll be able to hit “broadcast” and stream to Twitch from your Android phone.
The Mixer route
Mixer Create for Android
Mixer Create broadcast settings
If you want to stream gameplay to the most interactive of the streaming services, then you can start by downloading the Mixer Creator app from the Play Store. Next, in order to access the app, you’ll need to link your Mixer account with a Microsoft account. Start by creating a Mixer account via the website, going into Account Settings, and clicking a grey “Link your Microsoft account” button on the top right. Enter your Microsoft login and you’ll be able to access the Mixer Creator app.
Now to actually start streaming, tap the pink broadcast icon at the bottom of the screen. You’ll be taken to a preview screen where you can switch between camera streaming or on-screen streaming of what you’re playing.
The Mobcrush (YouTube, Twitch, Facebook etc.) route
If you want to stream Fortnite from your iPhone, for example, you’ll need to go into Settings and enable Screen Recording (which is available for iOS 11+ devices). Next, download the Mobcrush app from the App Store, which allows you to reroute your screen recording to the app and then to Twitch.
While I dislike that Mocbrush requires you to create an account to use the app, you can sign on with your Google, Twitter, or Facebook accounts. Keep in mind: if you’re using your Facebook account to sign in, Mocbrush can automatically link to Facebook’s game streaming (if you want to go that route). Whichever sign-in method you use to log into Mocbrush, you’ll have to separately link a streaming service, like your Twitch account (with your stream key).
However, we’re trying to stream Fortnite on iOS to Twitch, so head to the Control Center and hold down the screen recording icon, which will give you the option to choose a supported app on your phone. Select Mocbrush, enable your iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode, set your stream title, and hit the button to broadcast.
To stream your iOS gameplay to YouTube, you can mirror the setup process outlined for Twitch but instead, log-in with you Google account, select YouTube as your preferred streaming service, set a broadcast title, save your changes, and you’ll be set.
The Mixer Route
Start by downloading the Mixer Creator app from the App Store. Next, you’ll need to link your Mixer account with a Microsoft account in order to access it. Start by creating a Mixer account via the website, then going into your Account Settings, and clicking the grey “Link your Microsoft account” button on the top right. Enter your Microsoft detail and you’ll be set.
Now to start your stream, tap the pink broadcast icon at the bottom of the screen. You’ll be taken to a preview screen where you can switch between streaming from your cameras or an on-screen broadcast of what you’re seeing.
The ReplayKit route
Apple’s ReplayKit solution allows you to live stream supported iOS apps and games, but it has stricter requirements. Every app that uses ReplayKit to stream has slightly different steps to get the ball rolling, but they all involve a dedicated share or capture button that you can look for that links to a streaming service.
For example, if you want to use ReplayKit to live stream to YouTube, you need at least 100 subscribers and the latest version of the app. If you’d like to stream to Twitch, you’ll still need an app or game that supports it, like Asphalt 8: Airborne.
Also, don’t forget to enable “Do Not Disturb” mode. You don’t want notification banners to get in the way of kicking off your mobile gaming career.