How Twitch Works

Broadcasting Via Twitch

Once you sign up for a free Twitch account, you may only be a few short steps away from broadcasting your gameplay, as long as you have the right hardware and software. The basic necessities are a computer or gaming console and software (either downloaded or built-in) for video capture and transmission to Twitch. Twitch suggests several software packages that are compatible with its requirements, along with some handy guides on its support pages to help you pick the right settings. (Hardware and software will be covered in more detail in the next two sections.)

Broadcast software will generally allow you to pick your streaming service from a drop down list, Twitch included, so that you can link to the Twitch site. You will either enter your Twitch username and password, or your stream key, which you can find by logging into the Twitch site, hitting the "Stream Key" link on your dashboard and hitting the "Show Key" button. You can then copy and paste it into the broadcast software where requested.


Most of the software allows you to view a preview before you actually start live broadcasting. Or you can go right ahead and start a broadcast and go to your Twitch dashboard or your channel page to view it, give it a name, select the game you are playing (so that your channel will show up in game searches) and see if you need to make any adjustments. From the dashboard, you can also view previously recorded streams, highlights or bookmarks you have saved, and see your activity and stats. You can add editors so that other people can manage and update your channel, but the editors must be Twitch users who are following you.

While you're live-streaming, the dashboard displays a handy "Stream Configuration Quality" rating to let you know if your streaming software video settings are optimal. Possible ratings are Excellent, Acceptable and Incompatible, and Twitch may refuse to accept your stream if it is rated Incompatible. Be careful what you have on screen, because with some of the software packages, you can easily throw your whole desktop into your live stream. And remember: Your microphone is also likely live unless you set the software not to capture it.

Aside from broadcasting, chatting with viewers and otherwise having gaming fun, Twitch broadcasters can also apply to join Twitch's partnership program via an online application. If accepted, partnership will give you perks like potential ad and subscription revenue, the ability to choose when commercials run so that your broadcasts aren't interrupted at awkward moments, and automatic transcoding of your content. Automatic transcoding allows broadcasters to stream at the highest possible quality, and for partner channels, the site gives viewers the ability to pick different resolutions so that they can view at the level that works best with their devices.

Partners have more control of chat through functions that allow them to ban people, display commercials and set users as moderators, among other things. Partners can also edit their archived video into highlight clips, have them automatically uploaded to YouTube and allow viewers to create highlight reels to upload to YouTube themselves. General guidelines for acceptance into the Partner Program for a Twitch broadcaster include having an average of 500 viewers at a time, regularly broadcasting at least three times per week and conforming to the terms of service and DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) guidelines. For new users, the guidelines include things like 15,000 views per video and 100,000 subscribers on another streaming site. These aren't hard and fast rules, though. Twitch encourages anyone who thinks they have an idea or a claim to fame that would attract an audience to apply, such as a noteworthy presence on social media, competitive gaming credentials or plans to stream unique content.

But before you can even get to that point, you need to start broadcasting. Continue reading to find out more technical details of what you need to start streaming your video game sessions.