Microsoft to Acquire Beam for Interactive Xbox Livestreaming

Instead of passively watching livestreams, Xbox gamers may one day be able to jump right into the action, thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of Beam Interactive.

Microsoft, Beam Interactive acquisition

Redmond, Wash., tech giant Microsoft announced on Aug. 11 that it signed an agreement to acquire nearby livestreaming specialist Beam Interactive for an undisclosed amount.

Instead of passively observing gamers as they broadcast their exploits, the Beam platform offers visual controls that enable viewers to interact with the game world. The Seattle-based company's software development kit (SDK) allows developers to enable interactive streaming in their game titles with as little as 25 lines of code, according to Beam.

A real-time, HTML5-based streaming protocol pipes interactive game footage to web browsers and native apps for Android, iOS, Apple TV and Kindle.

"We at Xbox are excited about this convergence between playing and watching, and want to provide gamers with the freedom and choice to have great multiplayer experiences across all of Beam's platforms," Chad Gibson, partner group program manager for Microsoft Xbox Live, said in an Aug. 11 announcement. "This acquisition will help gamers enjoy the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want."

Although Microsoft is acquiring Beam and folding it into its engineering division under the Team Xbox banner, the company plans to continue to support the platform as a stand-alone offering, according to Matt Salsamendi, co-founder and CEO of Beam.

Addressing any potential changes to the service, Salsamendi said in a blog post that his group is continuing its "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."

Salsamendi will stay on to lead the Beam group in Redmond, he added. Meanwhile his team will be growing its headcount and beefing up its infrastructure as it scales to meet the demands of the Xbox Live community. In July, during an investor's conference call, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said 49 million people were using the Xbox Live multiplayer and social gaming service, a 33 percent increase since last year.

Scratching That Twitch

The acquisition signals that Microsoft is getting ready to take on its biggest cloud rival, Amazon, in the growing livestreaming market.

Two years ago, Amazon acquired Twitch, the leading social video gaming streaming provider, for $1.1 billion. The platform has been home to a series of "Twitch Plays" sessions, a social experiment that hands over control of a game like Pokémon to multiple users. (Interestingly, Twitch is currently the go-to streaming experience for Xbox One gamers.)

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...