CODcasting could finally popularize gamer TV

Last week, Activision announced its forthcoming Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 video game will let players live-stream their gaming from Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 through YouTube.

The development could satisfy demand for spectator gaming that has gone unmet for years.

When I was a kid, I relished watching GamesMaster, the pioneering and much-loved Channel 4 TV show that not only reviewed the latest games but also pit young gamers and celebrities against each other for viewers’ live digital entertainment.

After GamesMaster went off-air in 1998, gaming on TV all but dried up — despite the past-time becoming mainstream, and the industry booming to overtake even Hollywood’s riches.

Spectator gaming, too, has taken off in a big way. There are now several “esports” tournaments in which professional players compete for large prizes. But these are mostly viewed at events and not from home. ESPN has been virtually alone in broadcasting Major League Gaming. And yet, as gamers mature, they are an increasingly attractive advertiser demographic.

To fill the gap, many gamers have recorded and live-streamed their sessions and best moments for websites. YouTube is chock-full of gamer commentaries. But there has long been a technical hurdle — while PC gaming can more easily be screencast, console gamers have needed to route their video output to a PC.

Many of these plucky young souls are broadcasting their gaming triumphs for viewers through services like Ustream. has emerged as a dedicated brand name through which to watch live and recorded sessions. Likewise, ESL (eSports Live), currently in beta, is bringing multiple live scheduled esports contests to live online channels, and has hired a head of media who is starting January 2013. Call Of Duty already allows in-game spectating, dubbed “CODcasting“, for people who already own the title.

But YouTube could be game-changing for two reasons.

First, the bundling of live broadcasting capabilities directly in to the Xbox and Playstation versions of Call Of Duty, by developer Treyarch, will make the feature available to many more gamers who don’t possess the skills or equipment to use existing live-streaming techniques. Players can even act solely as directors, changing camera angles and mic levels and presenting pieces to camera via webcam.

Second, YouTube is the web’s biggest video service. Including live video game broadcasting in YouTube could bring the genre to a much larger audience. In a couple of years, YouTube will be available on many living room TV sets, not just computers.

That this development will begin with Call Of Duty suggests such broadcasts may initially be replete with trash-talking teens rather than family-friendly commentary that enhances the experience as entertainment.

But it’s not hard to imagine other titles leveraging the technology well — for example, tournaments in EA’s FIFA franchise.

In time, and if more games begin to bundle this feature on consoles, TVs could soon be used as much to watch video games as to play them.