Video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, expected to be a blockbuster once it goes on sale Tuesday, has an exciting new perk: a direct YouTube connection that lets players stream their games online.
Some amateur and pro video players already broadcast their games on YouTube and smaller online video sites. To do so, they must either use fairly sophisticated video-capture devices and programs — or settle for simply aiming a camera at a screen while providing audio commentary.
But under a deal announced by game publisher Activision and YouTube, players — for the first time — will be able to directly create a live YouTube feed of their Black Ops II online multiplayer match from inside their game.
"We are hoping to enhance the game experience by allowing users to build their own fan base as well as showcase their own gaming skills," says YouTube's Cliff Samaniego. Google-owned YouTube is the busiest online video destination, according to research firm ComScore.
Players will also be able to act as commentators for matches or post tutorial and highlight videos. "With so many people already uploading content to YouTube, it makes a lot of sense for us to be live-streaming partners," says David Vonderhaar, design director at Treyarch, the game's developer.
Now it will be easier for more game casters to join in because the technical and cost barriers have been removed, he says. "It allows anyone the ability to become a live streamer and connect with other fans in new and exciting ways."
Tens of millions are expected to buy Black Ops II (on PS3 and Xbox 360) but YouTube says it should be able to handle any increase in traffic. During the London Olympics, YouTube delivered more than 230 million streams to 65 countries as part of its online partnerships with NBC and the International Olympic Committee.
Black Ops II players can stream directly from their PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC to their YouTube channel (they must link their YouTube account to their game) and publicise live events via social media. Treyarch will promote the best of the live-streaming events and curate a streaming archive on a Call of Duty: Black Ops II YouTube destination.
"Fans will have instant access to thousands of channels and hundreds of thousands of hours of excellent community-generated Call of Duty content," Vonderhaar says.
Viewers will be able to follow favourite players or watch tutorials to get better at playing the game, which will have Activision-organised online leagues for the first time.
Watching games is becoming much more of a spectator sport, Samaniego says. "The games are much more fast-paced and there's more skill and dexterity needed [and] the graphics are becoming more cinematic."
Mobile devices will help drive viewership, too, he says. "Users are able to watch on, as well as play on, a number of different platforms — and it's opening up the door for a wider audience."