A Comparison Guide to Twitch, Hitbox, Beam, YouTube

Posted by Zanetski 14 comments

Ten years ago, live streaming was a gimmick. Now it’s become a crucial part of nearly every gaming community — and what was once limited to professionals can now be done by anyone with a half-decent computer and free software.

These days, the question is less about how to stream and more about where to stream. A lot of people default to Twitch because it has the lion’s share of the market but market share isn’t everything. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you may be better off on another site.

So here’s a look at the major streaming competitors, what each one offers, and why you might want to use one over another.

Twitch

Site Design: Twitch has a simple but effective layout. The main page isn’t very interesting — I’ve never felt compelled to watch any of the sponsored channels — but the browsing page is straightforward and the three-panel view is efficient.

The downside is that the only sort option is “most viewers to least viewers”, which makes it hard to get noticed if you aren’t already popular.

The Dashboard is also simple and effective. You can watch your stream, change the broadcast title, and chat with your viewers all on the same page.

Video Options: Up to 1080p 60fps. Flash support only. Transcoding only available to Partners.

streaming-site-twitch-interface

Stream Delay: Twitch streams typically have a delay between 20 to 60 seconds, depending on the streamer’s connection and the current load on Twitch’s servers. You can enable the “Reduce Stream Delay” feature to cut it down by about 33%, but your viewers may experience more buffering.

VOD Saving: Twitch lets you archive past broadcasts as videos. Twitch can auto-save broadcasts which remain for 14 days (for free users) or 60 days (for Partners and Turbo users). VODs are permanent once created and can be exported to YouTube if desired.

Copyright Claims: If infringement is detected, VOD audio is muted.

Third-Party Tools: Twitch has the most variety of third-party tools of any streaming service: donation trackers, Twitch alerts, chat bots, emotes, IRC integration, and more. If you want to do something unorthodox with your stream, Twitch may be the easiest for experimentation.

Monetization: Only Twitch Partners can monetize, which includes mid-roll advertisements, channel subscriptions, and merchandise campaigns. To become a Partner:

  • You must stream at least 3 times per week.
  • You must have an average concurrent viewership of 500+.
  • You must abide by the TOS and DMCA guidelines.

streaming-site-twitch-directory

Audience Size: Twitch is an absolute monster in this regard. With over 1.7 million unique broadcasters and over 100 million unique viewers every month, it’s the largest live streaming site on the web and easily eclipses other sites like Hitbox and Beam.

This is both good and bad news though. The massive viewership means greater potential for a larger channel if you ever get famous, but there are so many channels that getting noticed is almost impossible these days. Twitch requires the most talent and luck to be successful because the bar is set so high.

Community: Twitch Chat is notorious for being shallow, immature, meme-ridden, and downright cruel at times. Not always, of course, but tune into the finals of a CS:GO Major or Dota 2 Major and the experience can be harrowing. As a streamer looking for true community, Twitch is not the place for that.

Mobile Apps: Android and iOS.

Regional Availability: No region restrictions.

Hitbox

Site Design: Hitbox’s interface is like a simpler version of Twitch’s interface. It uses a two-column layout rather than Twitch’s three-panel layout, but between the two, I prefer Twitch. Hitbox feels cramped and cluttered while Twitch feels clean and complete.

Hitbox’s games directory is a grid of covers sorted only by highest viewership to lowest viewership. On channel pages, there’s a chat to the side and profile details below, which is all you really need but it still feels like something is missing. The differences are small but tangible.

Video Options: Up to 4K 60fps. HTML5 support only. Transcoding only available to Partners.

streaming-site-hitbox-interface

Stream Delay: Hitbox streams typically have a delay between 2 to 6 seconds, which is excellent for chat-friendly channels where interaction between the streamer and viewers is desired.

VOD Saving: Hitbox lets you archive broadcasts as videos. Hitbox can auto-save broadcasts which remain for 14 days. VODs are permanent once created and can be exported to YouTube if desired.

Copyright Claims: No infringement detection.

Third-Party Tools: Trackers, alerts, and notifications do exist but nowhere near as many as are available for Twitch. Chat bots also exist but they aren’t as advanced as the ones available for Twitch.

Monetization: Anyone can monetize on Hitbox, no Partner status necessary. As soon as Hitbox verifies your PayPal billing details, you’ll be able to trigger mid-roll advertisements from your dashboard and allow users to subscribe to your channel.

streaming-site-hitbox-directory

Audience Size: Hitbox is the second largest streaming site, although that isn’t saying too much considering just how much bigger Twitch is. In 2015, Hitbox had approximately 10 million unique viewers every month. It’s a bit higher now, but not by much.

Community: One of the main reasons why streamers switch from Twitch to Hitbox is that Hitbox has a much more relaxed and mature atmosphere. Whereas Twitch chatters tend to spam memes, Hitbox chatters tend to prefer real discussions and social connections.

Mobile Apps: Android and iOS.

Regional Availability: No region restrictions.

Beam

Site Design: Beam has one of the slickest designs of any video streaming site. It’s full of eye candy, it feels nice to use, and everything is as smooth as butter as you browse. The interface is organized, easy to navigate, and generally pleasing to the eye. They did everything right.

I like that they have better browsing options than the other sites. Thanks to the “Rising Stars” and “New Streamers” pages, you have ways to find streamers who are good but haven’t made it into the spotlight yet. From a streamer’s perspective, that’s worth a lot of bonus points.

Video Options: Up to 1080p 60fps. HTML5 support with Flash as a backup. Transcoding available for all streamers.

streaming-site-beam-interface

Stream Delay: Beam streams have near-zero delays. Seriously, 2 to 5 seconds at worst, but usually under 1 second. This is incredible for chat-friendly streamers, and it’s so fast that the streamer can interact with viewers in real-time.

VOD Saving: Apparently there is a VOD system (whenever you stream, your last broadcast is saved as a VOD and you can mark them to keep, but if you don’t then they get overwritten) but I haven’t been able to get it working. Also, there’s no way to export to YouTube.

Copyright Claims: No infringement detection.

Third-Party Tools: There are a handful of chat bots available for Beam, but nothing as advanced or flexible as the ones available for Twitch and Hitbox. There is also one stream notification tool at the moment. Hopefully more will come soon.

Monetization: Only Beam Partners can monetize, which includes mid-roll advertisements and channel subscriptions. To become a Partner:

  • You must stream 3 to 5 times per week.
  • You need good stream quality, 720p @ 2500 Kbps is good.
  • You need a professional attitude and demeanor.
  • You need a “significant” viewership, no specific numbers.
  • You should be committed to the Beam platform.

The good thing about Beam is that the platform incentivizes viewers who watch without adblock, so you’ll likely earn more money per user than on other platforms.

streaming-site-beam-directory

Audience Size: Beam is new — less than half a year in beta so far — so don’t expect thousands of viewers yet. As of April 2016, there were at least 100,000 unique viewers in the month. The audience is small but growing very fast. It will catch up soon.

Community: Like Hitbox, Beam has a tight-knit feel to the community. Instead of mindless meme spam, you get viewers who are actually interested in the streamer and want to have real discussions in the chat. Maybe this will change when Beam’s popularity grows, but for now it’s pleasant.

But the biggest feature of Beam is that viewers can interactively control the streamer’s gameplay in real-time. It doesn’t work with all games yet, but for the games that are supported, this is a really cool feature that boosts viewer engagement and makes for some fun times.

You don’t have to use the feature though. Normal streams are totally possible through Beam’s platform and most channels don’t care about the interactivity feature.

Mobile Apps: Android, iOS, Chromecast, and AppleTV.

Regional Availability: No region restrictions.

YouTube Gaming

Site Design: YouTube Gaming’s design is both hit and miss. Taken in isolation, it’s not too bad. The layout is clean and functional but the text is a bit cluttered in parts, and often it takes too many clicks to get where you want to go. It works, though.

What I don’t like is that it doesn’t integrate into the overall YouTube experience. YouTube Gaming is basically a separate site and there aren’t any clear ways for regular YouTube visitors to hop over to YouTube Gaming. I wish it was an actual part of the main site, which would boost viewer numbers.

Video Options: Up to 4K 60fps. HTML5 support with Flash as a backup. Transcoding available for all streamers.

streaming-site-youtube-interface

Stream Delay: YouTube Gaming streams have a noticeable delay — usually between 20 to 40 seconds — because they are optimized for as little buffering as possible. You can choose to optimize for interaction, which brings the delay down to 8 to 15 seconds.

Note that there is also a chat refresh delay. For a channel with very little chat activity, the refresh rate can be as high as 10 seconds. As activity increases, the refresh rate also speeds up.

VOD Saving: YouTube Gaming saves every broadcast as a VOD that can be viewed on YouTube. That’s the beauty of this platform: it’s directly connected to YouTube. If you want to do streams and video content, then this makes it much easier to manage everything and stay organized.

Copyright Claims: If detected, VOD audio is muted.

Third-Party Tools: Very little is available right now. You’ve got Nightbot (the same one from Twitch) as a chat bot and Stream Warrior for stream notifications. Otherwise, the field is empty and barren.

Monetization: YouTube accounts in good standing can enable monetization on their channels, allowing you to play advertisements on both streams and VODs as well as accept Sponsorship subscriptions from viewers.

streaming-site-youtube-directory

Audience Size: YouTube Gaming was a wasteland for a time but it is quickly building up a sizeable audience now that streamers are making the switch over from Twitch. Even during off-peak hours, you can find over 10,000 unique viewers across the entire site.

Community: For better or for worse, YouTube Gaming chatters tend to be very similar to Twitch chatters. Maybe it’s because a lot of the top YouTube Gaming streamers actually came over from Twitch. Or maybe it’s because the culture is just naturally spilling over.

What I mean by that is heavy meme spam. When your channel is small, you might be able to have a tight-knit group of followers, but as soon as it starts growing, it’ll become Twitch-like quite quickly unless you stay on top of it with an iron fist.

Mobile Apps: Android and iOS.

Regional Availability: The same viewing restrictions as regular YouTube apply, including limited access for users in Germany and China.

Which One Should You Use?

Here’s how I would personally rank the services:

  1. Twitch
  2. YouTube Gaming
  3. Beam
  4. Hitbox

But it really depends on what you want to accomplish. If you need a lot of fancy bots, trackers, alerts, and such, then Twitch or Hitbox. If you want a next-gen experience, then Beam. If you want a tight community, then Beam or Hitbox. If you want to join the next big thing, then YouTube Gaming.

For now, anyway. Who knows how the scene will change given another few months!

So which streaming site do you like the best? Are you commited to Twitch? Are you excited for any of the upcoming competitors? Do they have any hope against Twitch? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Written by Zanetski

Lead writer and editor for Battlecrank. When he isn't sinking hours into Battlerite itself, he's doing his best to help newbies. You can find him on Discord at Zanetski#5578.

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VIP
7 months 4 days ago

Not actually knowing about beam and never having watched Youtube gaming or Hitbox this was actually quite the nice read. I’m not the biggest fan of Twitch in any way but I am basically forever committed to twitch due to the fact that I am basically a fanboy of countless large streamers. Even if I do prefer the system or layout on other sites I could just never switch.

I have to say that it is pretty nice seeing an article that isn’t really related to Battlerite. Love that this site is so much more than just a simple fan forum that is only Battlerite.

VIP
7 months 2 days ago

Hey thanks, this was interesting. I’m personally not much watching streams, but every now and then there’s something interesting. Gonna check out Beam as well.

Dave
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Dave
6 months 29 days ago

I’m thinking of building a streaming site, I’d be funding it out of my own pocket and want the streamers to be able to make a good fair living, what kind of ads or monetisation would you be happy to see on a streaming site, as I for see a lot of cost and no return for awhile if i build it. I’d like the creatures and audience to be able to mutually benefit a good service and income.

It’s just a toe in the water at the moment, but thoughts and input are very welcome.

Thanks

Donovvan Lewis
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Donovvan Lewis
6 months 16 days ago

I’m still not sure which one to pick. Not even sure what sure what I’m looking for in a streaming service. I like them all, honestly.

leegamez2
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leegamez2
1 month 29 days ago

I wanted to make HitBox work but never got any viewers. Like literally, no viewers. on twtich i get like 3 followers a day, which is a shame ’cause i love hitbox lol

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