Four out of ten people in the world who have an internet connection use that connection, at least in part, to live stream games. But how many of those people actually have the required software and hardware to play those games as they are meant to be played, not to mention live stream them? The truth is that most people don’t currently have the full capability you would hope in order for them to live stream games as well as they possibly could. This leads to a loss of quality in those games, a worse experience, or in some cases the inability to play a specific game at all. So, what can be done about this? And what internet speed do you really need if you’re to live stream games as successfully as possible?
Download & upload speeds
To live stream games, you need a reliable internet connection. In particular, you need to make sure that you have both a good download speed and a decent upload speed. But what speed you need specifically will depend on what you are trying to achieve, the resolution and frame rate of the game being played and so on. The bare minimum download speed that you will need to stream the most basic game is, on average, 1Mbps. But in most cases, you will probably find that you need more like 15Mbps, and that will almost certainly be true of the high-resolution online games that you probably want to live stream most of all.
In terms of upload speed, that will change depending on the various factors involved, and we're going to take a look at that in more detail later. But a general range will be anywhere from 4-8Mbps in most cases. If you’re struggling to reach either of these speeds, then it could really spell trouble for your ability to live stream games on your computer.
Why does streaming require such speed?
Streaming anything, even just low-resolution videos on YouTube, is going to require a certain amount of bandwidth, and a faster connection means that your computer can utilise that bandwidth more effectively. If you have a slow connection, then the data packets will not be able to go back and forth quickly enough for what you’re watching to play at the speed it needs to play. Resolution makes a difference because a higher resolution image requires more data to be moved, meaning a faster connection is going to make that a lot easier.
When it comes to live stream gaming, you’re talking about a lot more data than just watching an HD video on YouTube. In fact, you’re going to need a much faster internet connection if you hope for your game to play at all, let alone function in the way that you would hope it would. Streaming takes up so much of your internet connection because it is simply such a heavy load on your bandwidth. As a result, if you want to live stream successfully, you’re going to need a good internet connection. And if you’re hoping for anyone else living with you to be able to do anything at the same time as you streaming a game, then you will need an even better internet connection still.
The importance of good internet
Having a good internet speed will affect everything that you do online and the more high-powered the thing you’re doing is, the faster the internet you will need. It’s important to make sure that you have good internet if you hope to do anything beyond browsing and, if you’re trying to play all of the latest games with the best graphics, then you will need the very best internet connections money can buy, along with some pretty serious hardware to make it all possible too.
Your internet speed impacts everything about the experience of a live stream, both for the viewers and streamer alike. It affects the ability for the graphics to load, the speed of the game, and it will have an impact on how playable it actually is. If you find that your game is clunky and moves in a strange way a lot of the time, it’s often something which can be fixed by looking at improving your internet connection. You’ll also find that it hinders your ability to communicate with other players in good time, which could be quite important in MMORPGs for example, where that communication is often an integral part to the game. Evidently, having a good internet speed is going to be something that you absolutely have to focus on if you want your live stream gaming to go unhindered.
Which Specifications Are Important?
There are a number of specs that you’re going to have to understand as fully as possible if you hope for your internet connection to be as good as possible for your gaming. You can’t just go into this blind and you’re going to have to know what it is that you need to focus on in order to be as fully informed as possible. For that reason, we’ll take a quick look at a number of important specifications which you need to know about, or at least be aware of, if you’re to follow along with this article.
Encoding: This is the process of converting a raw video file into a type that can be recognised and used by a player. In the case of live streaming a video game, you will find that the encoding is not something you have to worry about quite so much on your end. However, it is still going to affect the quality of the game, and the kind of internet speed and connection that you’re likely to need to enjoy that game as fully as possible.
Bitrate: Put simply, the bitrate of a video is just the number of bits (pieces of single data) that are processed in a given unit of time. It doesn’t take long to work out that having a high bitrate means that you’re going to need more hardcore equipment, and a better internet connection, to be able to run it. So, the bitrate of the video is something that you’re going to want to focus on if you’re to get this right.
Video Quality: This specification refers to the overall quality of the video of the game you’re playing. Clearly, if you have a higher quality, then you’re going to have to make sure that you have the capability to deal with it and to stream it as well as possible. Video quality is itself affected by many other things (including the two points mentioned above) so you will need to make sure that you’re aware of as many of those as possible and how they all relate to and affect video quality itself.
Resolution: This is the one that most people are familiar with, but not many really understand the way that it can affect the quality of the video, much less the way in which you can stream it and what kind of internet connection you will need to do so. A higher resolution video is one in which many more distinct pixels can be displayed on the screen. That obviously means more of a load for the hardware, as there is just more data to process, and for that same reason much more of a load on the internet connection as well. By contrast, a lower resolution image will not need quite as much to run.
Do you have the hardware?
The truth is, before you even worry about internet speeds, you need to make sure that you have all of the correct hardware and that it is set up correctly. Without that, you’re not going to get anywhere at all, so this is really important to consider. The first thing that you’re going to need is a good computer. If you don’t have the right kind of equipment in basic terms, then it is unlikely that you’re going to be able to live stream your games. A fairly recent computer is an absolutely essential start - but beyond that, what else are you going to have to worry about?
The main thing that you’ll need is the graphics card. Without a good graphics card, it doesn’t matter how good the internet connection is - you’re just not going to be able to handle the video live stream itself in the first place. Nowadays you’ll want to make sure that you have one that at least supports DirectX 10, which will be fairly common for any new graphics card that you might buy today. On top of that, you will need to have an Intel Core i5-4670 processor, or its AMD equivalent, and at least 8GB of RAM. The more RAM you manage to have, however, the better off you’re going to be, and you might as well go as high as possible on that front. Similarly, you might as well grab the best processor you can possibly afford.
As long as you have all of this hardware set up, you should find that you’re able to deal with live streaming your games as effectively as possible. Once you have also looked into getting the best internet you can, of course. But now let’s look at some of the differences between games that you might need to consider too.
Frame Rates & Resolution
Something that is always going to vary across different games is the frame rates and resolutions of those games. This in turn affects video quality, which affects your streaming ability and what kind of internet connection you’re really going to need. It’s important that you’re aware of the differences here and, at the least, know what kind of frame rate and resolution you’re dealing with. The different combinations of these affect what upload and download speeds you require dramatically, so the more in-tune you are with this the better. Take a look at the table below for a guide to which resolutions and framerates require which internet speeds. Bear in mind that the speeds listed below are the minimum, and higher speeds will always be preferable.
|Resolution||Frame Rate||Upload Speed||Download Speed|
Platforms for live streaming
Once you’re all set up with your hardware and with whatever internet connection you feel you require, you need to make sure that you’re aware of what platform you should use for actually streaming your games. There are plenty to choose between, but there are also definite favourites and you might want to focus on these in particular to ensure that you make the right decision.
The two main competitors here are Twitch and Mixer. Twitch is one of the oldest going platforms around, so you know that you can trust it - but Mixer uses one of the best protocols for streaming in real-time. That said, when it comes to amassing an audience, there is no doubt that Twitch is the best - and it might also be better in terms of requiring less to stream too. Besides, it’s reliable and you know what you’re getting. What’s more, with such a large presence online already, Twitch is generally accepted as the established streaming platform, and probably the one that you should go for.
But if both those platforms are little too different for you, then alternatively, if you’re more familiar with YouTube, there’s YouTube Live as well – plus there’s a recent report from Streamlabs which would seem to suggest its popularity is on the rise.
Streaming like a Pro
If you’re keen to live stream games, then you’ll want to make sure you have a good understanding of all the above. Get the hardware you need, make sure that you have the right internet connection - or something much higher, if you can - and choose your platform wisely. You should be streaming like a pro in no time.
Any thoughts on the topic? Any questions? Or perhaps even other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.