Streamer Gift Guide 2016

Christmas Tree

Tis the season for gift guides. You can’t click a link in a google search without tripping over a “10 best tech gifts” story. One category of guide is always missing though: what to get for content creators.

More accurately, this guide is for the friend/parent/significant other of a content creator. One of the great things about streaming is the low barrier to entry; people can start with a pretty low-budget setup. What makes it even better is the amount of impact each new piece of hardware can make on your content.

Let’s start off with an area in which a creator can easily improve: audio. Microphones, to be exact. Starting off with your gaming headset’s built-in mic is fine, but people will notice the extra buzz or your breathing. A streamer can spend hours on third-party programs to try to smooth out the audio. Eventually, though, it is time for an upgrade.

CAD U1 Dynamic Microphone

 

My first suggestion is a personal one, as it is the mic I use, the CAD U1. It is a very cheap upgrade option, usually going for $20 – $25. Additionally, I bought and suggest this mic because unlike most microphone suggestions, it is not a condensor mic but is a dynamic mic. This immediately cuts down on environmental noise and, with the $3 foam cover, cuts way down on breathing noises.

Rode NT-USB

 
 
 

If you want to really give them a treat (or treat yourself!) I highly suggest considering the Rode NT-USB. It is 6x as expensive as the CAD and returns to the condenser style of microphone, but provides a lot more options. Additionally, it has a clarity and fullness of sound that other mics just cannot touch. You will need a couple of additional accessories to make full use of the NT-USB but your stream will thank you.

 
 
 

Next up are webcams. You may be using your laptop’s built-in camera or something you dug out of a drawer from the good old days from before the dot-com bust! This is fine to get started, but now it’s time to get rid of that pixelated mess and step up your game.

 

Logitech C920
The first camera almost needs no description. The Logitech C920 has become the streaming camera of choice (and for good reason). It will give you a (nearly) flawless 720p or 1080p signal. It may not be one of the fancy new 60fps cameras that have entered the market (such as Logitech’s own C922x) but you won’t be disappointed. Best of all,with new cameras releasing, the price on this slightly older one is dropping and can usually be found for around $60.

 

Razer Stargazer

Next is if you are really ready to step up your game: the Razer Stargazer which will run you around $150. The first camera to offer Intel Realsense, which uses multiple cameras to perform depth sensing and remove the background of the video even without a greenscreen! On top of that, it does 60fps at 720p. If you don’t have use for either of those features the last camera will cover your needs, but if you stream in a cramped space or do some crazy movements on Twitch’s new IRL category, this is the camera for you.

softboxes

 

Lights are an important component, but one of the hardest to find a good brand. A majority of them are of the same quality and will last you a number of years if you treat them right. The best thing is to find a decent deal on a two softbox combo. A quick search on Amazon brought up a pair that are cheaper than the recommended Cowboy Studios from Fancierstudio. Whichever you go with, good lighting is a must. Be prepared to spend around $100.

 

Lastly, we’re going to get into a couple of miscellaneous and premium add-on items once you have everything else decently setup.

 

VR Headsets

Virtual Reality is starting to really take off but has a rather high barrier to entry. There are options from Oculus and HTC/Valve but both will run you around $800. A slightly cheaper option if you already own a Playstation 4 is the PSVR. No matter which one you gift (or buy for yourself), it will add a whole new dimension to the content produced.

 

Elgato HD60s

If the content creator is starting to explore the idea of a two-computer setup, you can help them by giving them a capture card. There are a lot of options out there but the most popular among streamers is the Elgato HD60s. They will have to have a fairly modern computer because this card uses USB-C, but it will be well worth it. Real time 1080p 60fps recording with no impact on the gaming PC — truly the next level of recording for just $170.

 

Finally, if you’ve looked through this list and wondered where the reasonably priced gift idea was, giving a Steam Gift Card of any amount is a great way to support your favorite content creator. One of their largest expenses, year after year, are the games they have to purchase in order to continue to produce up-to-date content. Giving them Steam credit means they will have the funds they need the next time a game launches.

These are all great options but they certainly don’t cover the full spectrum of possible gifts. Content creators are constantly upgrading, whether it is various internal computer components, trying out new web services, or even switching out their chairs in hopes that it will improve their content and allow them to keep making a great show. No matter what you get your favorite content creator (yes, even that ugly sweater), hopefully they are thankful that you thought of them this holiday season.

The Brand Benefits of Publisher Conventions – BlizzCon

Conventions and the video game industry go hand-in-hand: there’s the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), Germany’s Gamescom, Comic-Cons, and more. Other than QuakeCon (and EA Play this year), it’s rare for publishers to host their own consumer-facing “mega event.” Most companies like Capcom, Ubisoft, and Nintendo share the stage and make special reveals during E3 (which is no longer open to the public) and other general gaming events.

Blizzard Entertainment is not like many companies, though as its 10th annual BlizzCon wrapped on November 4-5 celebrating all of the brand’s biggest franchises. Selling out in roughly 10 minutes, it is safe to say this annual convention is one of the most popular in the industry with no signs of slowing down!

Hosting a convention to promote your own properties and celebrate your fan base can be an extremely effective brand marketing strategy — evidenced by Blizzard. Publisher conventions can make fans feel rewarded, important,and valued. It gives attendees a chance to meet the artists and developers behind their favorite games, creating a personal connection that helps strengthen their brand affinity.

In order to understand why publishers should host conventions of their own, TriplePoint takes a look at what makes BlizzCon an impressive marketing tool, unique from other experiences, and what other companies can do to provide that same value. TriplePoint has taken all of this into account and has established five key BlizzCon 2016 brand marketing takeaways:

 

Surprising Announcements / Unique Information Distribution Structure

Each year, BlizzCon is home to new reveals and big surprises surrounding its IPs (World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch). Key highlights from this year’s BlizzCon included the eagerly awaited new Overwatch hero, Sombra, the Overwatch League announcement, Diablo 3’s upcoming Necromancer class, and Hearthstone’s new expansion Gadgetzan, and more. Interestingly enough this year Blizzard chose to separate its product news from esports news, with product on the first day and esports on the following day.

Blizzard’s strategy to lead its announcements with product news is because unlike product, which has more timing flexibility, esports stories need time to develop — tournaments need to be played and winners need to be determined. Having designated days for both types of stories ensures a steady flow of information for the press and consumers. Press will have enough time to cover, news will be easier to digest, and information won’t get lost — they can dominate the news cycle.

 

Watch the Best of the Best Play

Esports are another unique aspect of BlizzCon that is surprisingly not explored by other video game conventions.The best players from around the world gather to BlizzCon to showcase their skills and compete for huge prizes. The convention center is split into several parts where each space is devoted to specific tournaments in Blizzard’s gaming library. Having world championship tournaments during BlizzCon generates tournament results and team interview coverage, fandom, and an overall event spectacle.

 

Green screen by PhotoBoothless, find out more at http://www.photoboothless.com/

Network with Industry Professionals

BlizzCon serves as a mecca, drawing in fans from all over the world and from different backgrounds. Since there is something for everyone, BlizzCon was filled with cosplayers, community managers, artists, press, developers, representatives from other games, tech companies and more. BlizzCon is a dense concentration of video game industry professionals and offers immense opportunity to connect with key industry players.

 

Get Up Close and Personal with Devs and Artists

One of BlizzCon’s greatest strengths is being able to generate a personal connection with fans through intimate events like Signing Areas and Q&A’s. Often times at conventions developers have little time to talk about their games, only showing cutscenes and trailers of games without being able to provide details on other aspects — not the case at BlizzCon. Not only should developers and artists interact with press, but the community itself is just as crucial. Q&A’s set time aside for the community and helps them understand where developers and artists are coming from when designing a game. Blizzard understands this and does it well.

 

Hands-On Experiences

BlizzCon had many demo stations for Blizzard’s key titles, filled with new content yet to be released to the public. This concept is not new for video game conventions, but BlizzCon has the advantage of knowing virtually all consumers will be interested in all demo stations; therefore can optimize and personalize the content for the trade show attendees (vs. a content free-for-all at an event such as PAX). BlizzCon’s demo stations allow players to take their time, experience the new changes implemented into franchises they are deeply invested in, and provide valuable feedback. Sure, companies can host events for press to test a demo, but it’s equally important for the game’s community to experience it. It brings insight from different skill levels and backgrounds as well as tests what works and doesn’t work with its most important stakeholders — the fans.

 

Red Shirt Guy!

BlizzCon is a celebration of not only Blizzard’s video games but also its dedicated community they’ve cultivated for many years. Conventions can serve as an effective marketing tool, providing long-term value and building faith with your audience. In the end, players want games to succeed and to have fun. Personalized trade events such as BlizzCon are a great way to connect and celebrate with the fans.

 

TwitchCon 2016: Amazon’s Growing Twitch Presence

Twitch Prime

The content creator market is maturing and growing. Bigger and more established companies are beginning to see the value in investing in the space, and nowhere was that more apparent than at TwitchCon 2016. For the second annual event, TwitchCon relocated to San Diego and we began to see Amazon’s impact on Twitch start to take shape for the first time. Below are three observations on how the future of Twitch will be impacted by Amazon.

First off, the announcement of Twitch Prime made clear Amazon’s desire to integrate more directly with Twitch. Twitch Prime is an extension of their regular Prime service that adds perks specific to Twitch users, which, surprisingly, does not come with a price increase. It’s the first time that Amazon has extended Prime beyond their own core brand, and the perks for the inaugural month were as follows:

  • Free game loot – Tyrande Hearthstone hero, copy of Streamline, Paladins Bomb King weapon skin

  • Discounts on new-release box games

  • Ad-free viewing on Twitch

  • Exclusive emote & chat badge

  • One free channel Twitch channel sub per month

  • Everything else included with Amazon Prime

Twitch Prime

Second, Amazon has started positioning Twitch as a digital game storefront with Steam-like functionality by introducing a “Game Details” page and supporting Twitch Launcher software. Amazon first introduced this new functionality by including a copy of Streamline in Amazon’s Twitch Prime service. The “Game Details” page is just an addition to the page that each game already has in the Twitch directory. This page contains screenshots, a trailer, and a download/purchase link. Once downloaded, the new game can be accessed and managed in Twitch Launcher.

This new functionality will make for an interesting customer browsing experience, as they have immediate access to see who is streaming it or who has made videos of the game. Additionally, when a Twitch Partner streams a game that is a part of this system, they get a referral link that their viewers can use to go purchase the game. Twitch incentivizes the streamer to participate by giving them a 30% cut of each sale. Right now, the only game in this system is Streamline but there is no doubt more will be added.

Finally, Amazon hosted a launch party for their new game studio’s first titles: Breakaway, a “mythological sport brawler,” New World, and Crucible, that will surely set the tone for how other gaming companies participate in the event. Of course, all three titles have promised a high level of Twitch integration such as the announced Stream+ feature, which has similar functionality to Proletariat Inc’s Streamote.tv. Amazon’s launch party was experience-oriented and put the games front and center with attendees, offering demo access and alpha codes (etched on heavy metal coins, no less).

It‘s quite clear that Amazon plans to use their purchase of Twitch to further their initiatives, which is great for gamers and content creators. Amazon seems keen to make use of Twitch streamers’ influence on their viewers to create a store/publishing platform. How this plays out in a Steam-centric world will be interesting. Any more methods they can create or provide for Streamers to monetize their shows, in a way that benefits viewers, is great for the market as well. In short, TwitchCon provided us with plenty of evidence to be optimistic about what Amazon will be bringing to Twitch in the future.

Top Five TwitchCon Takeaways for Communicators

“How can we get our game on Twitch?” As PR professionals, this is a question we often hear from our gaming clients. Alongside the oft-coveted cover story in print, or the front-page online feature, the industry has now fully embraced streaming as a critical goal in a campaign to drive awareness and sales. Twitch, of course, as the dominant platform in the space, is the place to be; as of this year, Twitch has 10 million daily viewers, and 18,000 live channels producing content at any given time, as per the keynote given at this year’s TwitchCon.

One needs look only at how the market is racing to embrace streaming to appreciate the impact Twitch has had on games, from design to marketing to community management. Titles like Choice Chamber, Streamline, and the Jackbox series have taken great leaps forward in directly integrating Twitch viewers into their gameplay, and publishers and developers worldwide have taken to Twitch to share news and gather feedback directly from a live, interactive audience.

The value of Twitch for your game may be obvious, but how can a publisher or developer participate effectively? This year’s TwitchCon included a business-centric series of panels and presentations, and TriplePoint was there to take it all in. Here are some of the main takeaways to keep in mind as you plan your Twitch outreach: Continue reading Top Five TwitchCon Takeaways for Communicators

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 24

Image credit: Riot Games

This week in news from the gaming world… the League of Legends World Championship is being held this weekend with a record-breaking  prize pool of $5.07 million; Microsoft showed off more VR capabilities during its press conference on Wednesday; and  Kongregate is moving into the PC game publishing space with its first Steam release.

Continue reading TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 24

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17

Image credit: Rockstar

It would be an understatement to say a lot went on this week. Here is a collection of the top tech and gaming news for the week of October 17th! Get a first look at Nintendo’s next game system, the Nintendo Switch; Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming in fall of 2017; and unionized video game voice actors are on strike.

Continue reading TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17