11 August 2014 - 17:07

Hitbox streams triple amid Twitch defections

Video game streaming site Hitbox has seen a 300 percent increase in concurrent broadcasts following a series of unpopular changes at its largest competitor, Twitch
Dot Esports
Photo by jDevaun/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Video game streaming site Hitbox has seen a 300 percent increase in concurrent broadcasts following a series of unpopular changes at its largest competitor, Twitch.

Amid rumblings of a $1 billion acquisition by YouTube, Twitch made a string of unusual policy changes last week. This included a copyright policing system that automatically scans saved videos for copyrighted music, similar to YouTube's controversial Content ID system. The scanning policy, made possible through audio detection service Audible Magic, mutes videos for a full 30 minutes if copyright music is detected.

The same day, Twitch also announced it would limit the length of saved videos to two hours.

Reaction to the policies has been overwhelmingly negative, with prominent streamers promising to cancel their premium subscriptions to the service and take their business elsewhere. This is despite repeated reassurance by Twitch CEO Emmett Shear that more reasonable changes would be made.

Cosmo Wright, video game speedrunner and one of Twitch's most popular broadcasters, was vocal in his displeasure.

So is http://t.co/r7zyATAiPY or http://t.co/ILDW28JK8d the better streaming site? For the first time since 2010 I am considering switching.
— Cosmo Wright (@cosmowright) August 6, 2014

Speedrunning is a subset of competitive gaming in which players try to complete games as quickly as possible, often using a mixture of built-in mechanics and glitches in the code. The two-hour limit could be particularly damaging to that community, as unedited footage is required to prove the authenticity of world record setting runs. 

As defections begin at Twitch, its competitor Hitbox has reported a dramatic surge in traffic as a result. A representative from the company confirmed the marked increase in streaming numbers:

@ianjbark3r We had an increase in concurrent livestreams of about 300%
— hitbox (@hitboxlive) August 11, 2014

Hitbox is doubling down on the recent influx of viewers with a new website to help promote their platform, a community roundtable to help answer questions for new and potential partners on Aug. 9, and an increase in server capacity:

Our US West location has been upgraded with 2 new ingest servers. It can be found both in @OBSProject and @xsplit as "US West".
— hitbox (@hitboxlive) August 11, 2014

Cosmo Wright's website, SpeedRunsLive has also expanded to at least partially incorporate Hitbox streams on their site. The step is significant, as SpeedRunsLive acts as a direct conduit for streaming traffic by promoting speedrunners across several titles.

Despite the migration, Hitbox still has an uphill battle in the race to catch Twitch. SpeedRunsLive cited the technical errors and inherent limitations of Hitbox, including random, improperly saved videos, as reasons for only partial support of the service. Nevertheless, the development represents a notable shift in the streaming market that Twitch has dominated since its launch in 2011.

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