Now here's a nifty new way to experience social gaming: broadcasting your games via Steam. Yes, that's right... Valve has entered into the live-broadcasting arena and not just for Defense of the Ancients 2 tournaments via Twitch.tv.

The company sent out a press release today to announce that they have started a public beta for Steam Broadcasting and that anyone is welcome to join by opting into the beta. Simply open up the Steam client, go into the settings panel and choose to opt-in for the Broadcasting beta.

The press release keeps it short and sweet, stating...
“Steam Broadcast is designed for ease of use, allowing anyone to view a friend's game by simply clicking on "Watch Game" on their Friend's profile or Friend's List to open a window into their gameplay - no game ownership, special fees, or additional apps required. The beta is open to everyone who opts in to the Steam Client Beta (via the Steam Settings panel), however bandwidth may be limited during the beta.”

I was wondering whether or not their would be bandwidth limitations – streaming requires a bit of a hefty upload rate, and there's quite a bit to download on viewer's end. There's actually a brief page on Steam that roughly explains the basics of Steam Broadcasting, but they don't exactly explain if the game that the streamer is playing is broadcast via the cloud or if it relies on another type of network setup. I haven't tried it out so I'm not sure of the specifics.

The gist of it is that users begin playing a game and can then invite their friends to watch them play. Now I know some people might see this as being silly or useless or some might say (why not just join in and play the game with your friend?) well, maybe because someone might be curious about a single-player game and they would rather watch someone play it first before deciding to buy it. Also, if you watch a friend play, you can ask questions and get them to do certain things in the game – in real-time, of course – as opposed to watching a 30 minute Let's Play video that may or may not address your concerns or queries about the title.

Additionally, Steam Broadcasting works as a great alternative to spectating for e-sports events. It's a nice alternative to the traditional Twitch rooms. Although, I imagine Amazon may be a little peeved at the fact that they now have a very, very stiff competitor in the live-stream space after purchasing Twitch for $2 billion.

The only major drawback to the broadcasts, for now, is that you can't save them. However, anyone can start broadcasting once they join the beta. If a game is set to public and people start watching... well, then you're broadcasting.

Spectators can join in and watch broadcasts if they've been invited to private broadcasts or if a broadcast has been set to be viewed by the public. You'll need the Steam client, Google Chrome or Apple Safari to view broadcasts... sorry Internet Explorer users. Maybe next time.

As usual, there's a list of things that are prohibited from being broadcast to the public, so be wary about what you stream or how you stream it. You can learn more about the service by paying a visit to the F.A.Q., page.

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