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Why Microsoft Has Acquired A Live Game Streaming Platform

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

Only 8 months on from its January 2016 launch, live interactive game streaming site Beam has been bought by Microsoft. In many ways an aquihire (where acquiring company looks to acquire the team running a company as much as the company itself) the Beam team will be absorbed into Microsoft’s Team Xbox while striving to maintain their original platform agnostic ethos. Beam founder and CEO Matt Salsamendi has reassured Beam users in a blog post announcing the takeover last week, “So what changes for you? Nothing right now; we’re continuing our focus on providing streamers with the tools they need to create the most interactive broadcasts around. Beam is designed to work with any game, and we’ll continue to offer broadcasts across all gaming platforms, just as we do today.”

What Makes Beam Special

In the few months since it launched, Beam has built up a community of 100,000 gamers across multiple platforms and theoretically any kind of video game. Beam is effectively an iteration of the video gaming vlogging content put out by YouTubers. Instead of merely passively watching someone else play a game (however entertainingly that might be done) Beam users are able to actively participate in shaping the gameplay of what they are watching being streamed. Through utilizing the functionality of the Beam platform, users can direct the play of the streamer (ie choosing certain options within the game like which weapon to choose etc), thereby transforming a lean-back experience into a full-on lean in experience which is unique to the moment.

Microsoft Has Grasped The Power Of Community Behind Streaming

Amidst Microsoft’s difficult transition away from its core software franchise business, its Xbox division has been one of the few standout successes for the technology giant. And the core of that success has been built around the ability to grow an engaged community of gamers around the Xbox platform. This has enabled Microsoft to build a brand-focused audience through their interaction with the gaming content which they consume on the platform.

Beam was originally attracted to the Microsoft offer precisely because of its focus on building this community, and Microsoft benefits because it helps deepen and broaden their institutional knowledge of how to grow streaming content based experiences.

Beam is effectively a social gaming play updated for the streaming era. In 2015 Microsoft spent $2.5 billion acquiring Mojang, publisher of arguably the most socially apt mass market gaming franchise on the current paid app market- Minecraft. Although it was originally acquired with Microsoft’s augmented reality project Hololens in mind, it is actually more aptly suited for the new new post Beam Xbox experience. With no additional tech hardware required, and with a customer base already familiar and enthused by the community aspect of Xbox, the synergies are already lined up for the first of the next wave of community-orientated gaming on a streaming platform.

The lessons for other streaming content owners are stark- if you don’t have a community strategy play, then you better start thinking about acquiring one.

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