Last updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2018
There are a handful of streaming software solutions for gamers in 2018. Setting up a live streaming channel used to be a complicated matter requiring some technical know-how. The process commonly resulted in a few headaches. All that has changed, and these days it’s pretty easy. Capture cards and software solve most the tricky problems. We selected the best live streaming software to easily stream your game-play to Twitch for the world to see.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend any money to get reliable streaming software. There are a couple free, popular options that are open source and perpetually improve. If you’re planning on becoming a hardcore streamer, or perhaps covering big events such as competitive tournaments you may want to look into a paid option with a richer feature-set. However, for the casual streamer the free options are more than sufficient.
Best Streaming Software: Open Broadcaster Software (Free!)
OBS is our top live streaming software pick. It’s free, intuitive, and is supported by a large community. It enables the user to live RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) stream to Twitch, Hitbox, DailyMotion, YouTube, and many more. The GUI allows capture sources to be stacked one on top of the other and arranged to one’s liking. Sources include: screen regions, whole screen, webcams, windows, and direct game capture for compatible games. You can even make your own overlays and buttons with Photoshop to customize your channel. It also has dozens of plugins that enhance its functionality. It also can be integrated with most capture card setups.
Open Broadcaster Software dually serves as recording software. You can choose to stream and record at the same time (Warning: high resource cost), or just record. This feature is great particularly if your game doesn’t have a built-in replay feature. You can go back and analyze your gameplay as well as share it with others in a broadly recognized file format. The file output can be set to your standard MP4 or less common FLV.
Also worth noting is the imminence of the OBS MultiPlatform. This is a new software project being developed by the same community. It is essentially a complete overhaul of the original OBS. It has a more robust feature set and a much more powerful API. This will further help enable developers to create their own unique plugins. Unfortunately, it is only available for MAC and Linux but will be coming to Windows soon.
Why is it the best?
- Easy to use > plenty of configuration & troubleshooting guides online
- Open-source > continues to improve & add features
- Free > No payment required, but you could send a kind donation their way
- Lightweight > simple, stable, well-crafted software with low resource cost
Best Streaming Software: XSplit (Paid)
Pretty much everyone has heard of this one because it was one of the first players in the streaming game. The main benefits over OBS that are commonly voiced is how XSplit simplifies the streaming process. The ease of use as well as the native support instead of having to fish for plugins with OBS are heralded as some of its best features. A long term license for the premium version of XSplit is a bit spendy but you can get a 3 month license for $25 to test the waters with it.
The premium version allows you to create up to 12 scenes. It features a drag and drop multimedia sources akin to OBS. You can smoothly switch between all these scenes while broadcasting live. Wewouldn’t recommend the free version, it features ads on your stream and doesn’t have many of the features you can get for free with OBS. A license includes both the Broadcaster and Gamecaster products from Xsplit. Keeno3, an XSplit representative summarizes the two:
XSplit Broadcaster is aimed at the professional or advanced multimedia broadcaster. Live stream and record in ultra-high quality using endless features and flexible plugins. XSplit Broadcaster is the most reliable tool you’ll find for live streaming, and is used by a long list of professional casters and content producers.
Xsplit Gamecaster is the super simple and easy to use game streaming application for gamers of all ages and communities. You will be streaming in crisp high quality, smooth and lag-free in less than 5 minutes.
The nice thing about the game caster is that it simplifies getting a channel set up. It is the easiest way for new streamers to get up and running fast.
Other Options: Wirecast, vMix, Shadowplay, FFsplit
There are a few other lesser known options if your looking for something special or just want to be a streaming hipster.
The last on our list is by far the priciest option. For $655, you can be the proud owner of Wirecast’s live webcasting software. To upgrade to the Pro version, you’ll be looking at $995 at the time of this writing. It is an all-in-one live streaming platform that in essence, mimics television studio production software. Wirecast can handle streaming just about any event from live concerts to giant tournaments that demand seamless transitions and sharp looking graphics.
Unlimited encoding and capture of video sources, streaming to multiple servers and platforms simultaneously, guest features when you happen to have Drake for a visit, and loads of other features. It may be a little overkill for a solo streamer, but if you’re already making a steady income from streaming $650 may be well worth the investment. If you want the best, this is it.
Another top-tier streaming product designed with the power user, vMix offers potential customers a friendlier (relative to Wirecast) tiered pricing system. The basic 1080p starts out at $60 and $700 for 4K, but you can get the most advanced package with all the bells and whistles (instant replay, PTZ camera control, scripting controls, virtual scoreboard, etc.) for $1,200 smackeronis. The interface is super slick but it does come with a learning curve and can agitate first time users. Fortunately, once you buy into their system, you get access to wonderful technical support. Furthermore, there’s a wealth of YouTube videos out their with instructions and how-to’s on the various features of vMix.
Shadowplay is an interesting new option from Nvidia that debuted in 2014. Instead of putting the load on your computer processor, it uses your graphics card as the encoder. This is great if your graphics card isn’t being pushed to its limit, but if its already maxed out your games graphics performance will take a hit. Some gamers praise Shadowplay for its minimal performance impact but where it really shines is as a recording solution. One of Shadowplay’s really neat features is its quick record option, dubbed Shadow Mode. Hit a hotkey and up to the last 20 minutes of your gameplay will be saved to disk. Of course, you can record video for as long as you want in manual mode. The System Requirements and qualifying Nvidia graphics cards are listed here. For streaming your overlay options are going to be limited. One trick to overcome this partially is setting Shadowplay to “Allow desktop capture” and use an overlay like Overwolf to display chat while in-game.
FFsplit, the lesser known split, is freeware like OBS. It’s a bit prettier with a clean, modern looking interface that feels well-polished. Feature-wise you’re not getting anything more here but if you have the urge to support the underdog this may be your match. FFsplit has a helpful quick start page on their website that walks you through the process of installing and setting it up.
Here’s a great video where the fine fellows from Epiphan Video. They compare and weigh the differences between OBS, XSplit, Wirecast, and vMix: