Video game streaming has become big business. From Amazon buying Twitch for a cool $1 billion to professional players like Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana leaving the professional scene as soon as their streaming career reaches critical mass, it’s clear there’s lots of money flowing into the new industry.
But while Twitch and Santana make hay on the heels of League of Legends, young streaming service Shou.TV wants to put Angry Birds, and games like it, under the same spotlight.
Mobile games constitute 70-80 percent of app store downloads across both iOS and Android devices, yet remain conspicuously absent from streaming directories. Shou.TV wants to buck that trend, putting 1080p streaming in the hands of mobile gamers, complete with facecam and audio from the player, just like a proper stream.
At the heart of the application is its flexibility, which CEO and co-founder Cedric Fung emphasizes as central to reaching the mobile audience. “The mobile gaming market is different from the PC gaming market,” he points out. “Mobile gamers tend to want to play games freely, on the bed, in the car, etc.”
His vision flies in the face of most people’s conception of professional streamers, decked out in high-end gaming equipment with a full recording setup and beefy streaming computer. “We are not expert gamers; we just like playing mobile games. [Our audience is] 10-20 years old, might not even own a desktop or laptop computer, and tend to play games with tablets and phones.”
It’s a strategic move for a young company, looking to casual gamers to provide serious stream time. What’s risky about the endeavor is walking into the lion’s den of streaming competition, where reaching a sufficient audience necessarily means taking down the leader of the pride: Twitch.
While it’s safe to say that Twitch’s mobile presence is lacking, the streaming giant is aware of the mobile audience, and has made inroads in the arena. Most notably, the NVIDIA Shield tablet allows users to stream to Twitch with little restriction in full 1080p HD. In addition, iOS games Asphalt 8 and Heroes of Order and Chaos, both by Gameloft, can broadcast gameplay on Twitch.
However, these items remain the exception rather than the rule. Gameloft has welcomed mobile streaming with open arms, but building native broadcasting into mobile games is a movement with little visible momentum. As for NVIDIA’s “gaming tablet,” the device caters primarily to an audience that takes gaming a little more seriously than the average mobile user.
By the company’s own admission, there is one arena where Twitch has Shou.TV beat: esports. Just like Skillz, another young company looking to break into mobile competitive gaming, Shou.TV recognizes that “mobile esports” still has some ground to cover. “We don’t intend to challenge Twitch in the sports market, at least within the next two years,” Fung says. In a David and Goliath fight, patience like this is a smart move. But on a larger scale, the CEO feels that mobile esports simply isn’t “there yet.”
“We are optimistic about ultimate growth potential for mobile esports…We think in two or three years, gamers will compete in the mobile esports market.”
Until then, Fung and Shou.TV’s audience are simply enjoying their games, competitive or otherwise.
“I’m not a PC or console gaming fan, but love to play games with my Android and iOS devices.” If the Shou.TV team is to find footing in a rapidly evolving streaming market, then they will have to hope that mobile gamers are as eager about sharing that love as they are.
Illustration by Jason Reed