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Microsoft is buying a company that lets viewers control video game live streams

Microsoft is buying a company that lets viewers control video game live streams


Beam will stay active as part of the Xbox division

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Today, Microsoft announced its plans to acquire live-streaming service Beam, a Seattle-based company that lets users influence and interact with a video game being streamed by another player. Beam launched in January to compete against well-established game streaming services from Twitch and YouTube. It set itself apart by taking a core concept made popular by streamers — the notion of letting players control a game from afar — and turning into a unique streaming platform.

For instance, Beam lets viewers suggest challenges for streamers and even alter in-game aspects like weapon loadout and quest selection. It also lets developers create special button layouts for viewers to interact with games being streamed through Beam. To maintain quality, the company's technology drastically reduces the lag between a player's actions and what the viewers see on the stream, whereas competitors like Twitch have a roughly 10 to 15 second delay. It's unclear how Microsoft plans to incorporate Beam's technology into its own online gaming platform. But the company points to Minecraft, now a Microsoft property, as the type of game well-suited to Beam's technology. Microsoft did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Beam's technology reduces the delay between a player's actions and the viewer's stream

"We at Xbox are excited about this convergence between playing and watching, and want to provide gamers with the freedom and choice to have great multiplayer experiences across all of Beam’s platforms," Chad Gibson, a partner group program manager at Microsoft's Xbox Live division, said in a statement. "This acquisition will help gamers enjoy the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want."

For Beam, the acquisition gives its small team the resources of Microsoft's Xbox division to continue building out the product. For now, CEO Matt Salsamendi says Beam will continue operating even as he and his colleagues integrate into the Xbox engineering group. In a blog post on Beam's website, Salsamendi says the service grew to around 100,000 users after launching in January of this year. "As part of Xbox, we’ll be able to scale faster than we’ve ever been able to before," he writes. "We’re expanding the team, bolstering our infrastructure, and most importantly, continuing to grow and support the amazing community at Beam."