The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were the first home consoles to feature the ability to stream directly from the console itself. Having that functionality is great, as it lowers the barrier dramatically for those interested in trying their hand at streaming. That being said, console streamers are at a distinct disadvantage from those who have their consoles connected through a PC.
With a PC, console streamers get access to all of the bells and whistles that viewers expect, from some semblance of an overlay, to on-screen notifications, to multiple scenes, When streaming from a console, you’re stuck with the limited options you have for microphones, cameras, and overlays. Microsoft got better as the generation went on, as they added support for different cameras and allowing for custom overlays through Lightstream Studio. However, that feature seems to have gone by the wayside as part of Mixer shutting down.
In particular, that PlayStation 4 streaming template can be a death sentence. I think when viewers see that default PS4 streaming overlay as they browse through Twitch, their first impression is that this is a “lesser” stream, even if you might be the most charismatic person in the universe.
Streaming from a console is totally fine for practice. But if you really want your channel to grow at this juncture, you’re in a much better position to do so by capturing your gameplay through a PC. Will this change as we transition into the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5?
One nugget of hope comes from the new PlayStation 5 HD Camera. The most interesting new feature here for streamers is that it comes with background removal tools. Presumably, this would allow the gameplay to stretch out to full-width, allowing the streamer to place themselves over-top of the action. Depending on how this is executed, it could go a long way towards making a console stream more competitive in terms of presentation compared to those using a PC.
More streamer-friendly features will inevitably make their way to these consoles. But will it be enough? I hope so, but I wouldn’t count on it.
By virtue of Sony having their own proprietary camera, it probably also means that Sony will continue to lock out any other camera options. Even if it’s the best webcam, it still won’t hit the quality ceiling of a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Furthermore, I don’t see them building in support for multiple cameras, which is something that I and many other streamers leverage to bring viewers closer to the action.
I’m also concerned about the level of customization that these consoles will offer. Microsoft was closer to offering a fully-featured streaming tool through Lightstream, but that’s essentially up in smoke now that they’ve sold Mixer off to Facebook. I have a hard time seeing Sony providing streamers with the tools to meet a base level of quality. For example, do you think Sony will build in the ability for streamers to set up multiple scenes, such as a gameplay screen and an intermission screen where the camera takes center stage? Will they allow custom background music? Custom stinger transitions? Will it support external tools like a Stream Deck or other device to control scenes? Can I place my camera feed anywhere I want?
Will Sony and Microsoft allow me to set up my stream so that viewers can take black and white screenshots with randomized captions that lead to hilarious moments like this? Okay, this last one is a reach, but it’s almost certain that console streaming won’t give you this level of control.
Until proven otherwise, I think that streaming off the console will continue to be great as a starting point. But for those who really want to take this seriously, you’re probably going to have to graduate out of those closed ecosystems. Even streaming with a bad PC could be better than directly from the new consoles by virtue of your stream not looking like the default layout provided by Sony or Microsoft.
If you have ambitions of streaming seriously, don’t wait for the next generation of consoles and rely on whatever solution they’ve built into those boxes. Start now. Start with what you’ve got, even if that means investing in a capture card and leveraging an under-powered PC. You will put yourself in a much better position to grow tomorrow if you work with tools that give you full control.
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