YouTube takes gaming very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they created a specific section on their platform just for the genre called YouTube Gaming.
And why shouldn’t they? Gaming has overtaken movies and sports as the dominant entertainment industry. Audiences around the world crave gaming content, which YouTube is more than happy to provide.
YouTube opened its live streaming services to everyone in 2013, giving content creators and gaming fans a more interactive broadcast entertainment experience.
Live streamers are video game A-listers. If you have a passion for gaming and want in on the action, here’s a quick course on how to stream games on YouTube.
Setting Up Your YouTube Channel
- Create a YouTube account.
- Create a channel. You will get a prompt giving you the choice of naming your channel. You either go with your default Google account or a custom name. For branding and privacy purposes, we recommend going with the latter. Plus, “Ronald Smith” or “twilightstan1992” don’t quite have the same impact as, say, “FPS Elite”. But the choice is yours.
- Verify your account. Click on the camera icon on the upper right of your screen. On the drop-down menu, select “Go live.”
To stream, you need to verify your account using a working phone number. Just follow the instructions, and you’ll be over this step in a snap.
- Wait for a day. After you verify your account, click on “Go live” again. This will bring you to the YouTube Live Control Room. You’ll see a notification saying there’s a 24-hour wait period before you can start streaming.
- Set up basic streaming parameters. After a day, you can now access YouTube’s live streaming features. Go back to “Go live.” From here you can choose to start broadcasting immediately or at a later date. Make your choice, then click on “Streaming software” on the stream type prompt. Move on to edit your general stream settings.
This is where you title your stream, add a description and thumbnail. Choose “Gaming” as your topic.
Here is where you also set your stream’s visibility—whether it’s public, unlisted, or private. “Private” makes the stream visible to either just you or to up to 50 individual YouTube accounts that you invite. “Unlisted” means that anyone with a direct link can watch the video, but it will not turn up when searched, nor will it appear anywhere on your channel.
Under the “Audience” section, pick your target viewers (made for kids, not made for kids, or age-restricted).
IMPORTANT: Do not set your broadcast as “kid-friendly” if you’re not sure that your stream will be as described. Not keeping things wholesome during a “made-for-kids” stream is one of the quickest ways of getting reported for inappropriate content. YouTube is extremely vigilant about this.
Choosing “Later date” will give you the same stream preferences options as “Go live,” with the addition of date and time preference fields.
Schedule a stream by clicking the “Manage” tab on the left sidebar—the calendar icon. A scheduled stream is listed as an “Upcoming livestream” on your channel. If the algorithm gods choose you, YouTube may recommend it to the public.
Interested viewers can click on the “Set reminder” button and will get a notification when you’re close to broadcasting. Most streamers prefer setting a scheduled stream a day or two earlier for publicity.
Click “SAVE” or “CREATE STREAM,” if you’re scheduling.
- Fine-tune your YouTube Studio settings. YouTube will generate a stream key. This is the code that will link the website and your streaming software. Under the “STREAM SETTINGS” tab, you have several preferences:
Normal sends out high-quality video, so there’s a significant delay between the capture from your streaming software and what your viewers will see. This is best if your stream is non-interactive, like if you’re doing a no-commentary playthrough.
Low latency sends out your feed with less delay, while Ultra-low allows for a nearly real-time stream. These two are your best options if you want to put out an engaging show. Interaction with your audience is more timely and more in tune with what’s happening in your game in real-time. We recommend going with low-latency.
Additional gaming-related settings
Enable Auto-start - If toggled on, your stream will start the moment YouTube detects a signal coming from your streaming software.
Enable Auto-stop - This stops your stream when your software stops sending data to YouTube. For now, YouTube reserves this and Enable Auto-start for scheduled streams.
Enable DVR - Turning this on gives your audience the option to pause and scan through what’s already been streamed. This is a very convenient feature, and we suggest leaving it enabled.
Added delay - You deliberately delay your feed for 30 seconds or one minute, decreasing the chances of online multiplayer trolls ruining your stream since they won’t know where exactly you are on maps.
Finally, there’s a toggle to automatically unlist the saved replay clip or video-on-demand (VOD) from your channel once the stream ends. Most streamers leave their VODs listed for people who missed the live stream.
Once done with these settings, click “EDIT” in the upper right corner. Here is where you add even more details, like the exact game you’ll play, tags, sponsorship details, and other tweaks.
OBS Studio: Best Way to Stream Games for Beginners
There are many free streaming software out there, but prominent content creators and tech publications swear by OBS Studio.
Any new application requires some learning curve, but since OBS Studio is open source and therefore backed by a massive community, there’s no shortage of support and updates.
The program is also straightforward and will get you going quickly, after a bit of setup. At the same time, OBS offers a ton of advanced features under the hood, whether you’re streaming from PC, other operating systems, or gaming platform.
Let’s get started.
- Download and install OBS Studio.
- Set general preferences. Run OBD but ignore all the pop-ups for now by hitting “Cancel”. Go to File, then Settings.
Let’s get through the relevant settings.
Stream - Set Service to YouTube - RTMPS and Server to Primary YouTube ingest server. Copy and paste the stream key from YouTube. Keep “_Ignore streaming service setting recommendations_” unchecked for now. Hit “Apply”.
Output - Leave the Output Mode to Simple and set the Video Bitrate at least 4500 Kbps.
For Encoder, there are three or more options but the ones that matter are Software and Hardware. Software leaves the encoding to your CPU’s onboard graphics processor. Your dedicated graphics card (Nvidia, AMD, etc.) will handle the encoding if you set it to Hardware.
We recommend using your dedicated graphics card if it’s powerful enough to run your game and encode the stream at the same time to not overwork your CPU.
Audio - The Sample Rate should match your PC’s playback rate. Find your computer’s audio sample rate in the sound settings.
We go to the Global Audio Devices now. Desktop Audio is your computer’s general audio. Use Default or choose the particular device that you’ll use from the list, like Realtek speakers, for example. This will be the audio source for your game.
The Mic/Auxiliary Audio is the input device for your real-time commentary. If you’re going to use a facecam with a webcam that has a mic built-in or a dedicated microphone, this is where you select it. Click “Apply”.
Video - The Base Resolution is your main canvas size. The Output Resolution is what OBS will send to YouTube. A safe output is 720p. If the output is lower than the base, OBS will upscale it to the base’s value. Remember. higher quality almost always means that there’ll be a delay in your stream.
Click “Apply” then “OK”. Quit OBS Studio and restart to fully apply the settings.
On to OBS’ interface proper. If you’ve worked with video editing software, this will look familiar. The large space in the middle is your preview area. The smaller bottom windows are your control panels.
The Scene window is your video switchboard. Since you’re gaming for YouTube, this is where you switch from your gameplay feed to your full-screen webcam. There’s always one scene loaded by default and you can’t delete it.
Let’s start really creating your stream
Gameplay feed. Begin by running your game in full-screen mode. On OBS, create the gameplay scene using the pre-loaded one. We suggest renaming it to something relevant, like “gameplay”, but it’s up to you.
With your gameplay scene highlighted, go to the Sources panel and click the plus button or right-click then add. You have a lot of options here. We suggest going with Game Capture because it’s a lighter load on the system.
After that, rename the source as you see fit. On the properties window, pick Capture any full-screen application, then click “OK”. If you’ve set your game’s display as full-screen, OBS will auto-detect the application and it’ll appear on the preview screen.
If the game is set to windowed or windowed borderless, choose Window Capture instead of Game Capture. In the properties of Window Capture, select the running game under the Window drop-down menu, then click “OK”.
Facecam Feed. Many content creators that stream games on YouTube Gaming, have a facecam. It adds another layer of entertainment and interactivity to live streams. This is optional, of course, but if you want a facecam overlay, this is the simplest way of doing it with OBS.
On the Sources panel, add a new video source, but this time select Video Capture Device.
If your camera is properly connected, it will show up under Device in the properties window that will pop up. Select your webcam and click “OK”.
Your facecam feed should appear on preview. The layering of video sources is ordered from first to last. Place your facecam over the gameplay by dragging it up until it comes before gameplay on the list on the Sources panel.
Resize your facecam by clicking on it in the preview section and drag the corners or sides. The aspect ratio is locked, so don’t worry about distorting the video. Then drag the entire thing to where you want it over your gameplay. Fine-tune the positioning using the keyboard arrow keys.
Crop your facecam by holding down the Alt key then dragging the corners or sides.
You can edit your gameplay feed in the same way.
Full-screen Facecam. Have a separate full-screen facecam by creating a new scene in the same way you did with your facecam feed. But in the properties, scroll down and set Resolution/FPS Type to Custom. Then below that, set the Resolution to the same as your display—usually 1080p or 1440p. Then hit “OK”.
Now you have another scene that’s only for a full-screen facecam. Switch between this and your gameplay with the smaller facecam overlay by selecting either of them on the Scene panel.
A full-screen facecam is great for when you do your intro and outro, or when you’re talking to your viewers for an extended period, and you don’t want them just staring at your paused game, squinting at your tiny face.
Audio. Manage audio on the Audio Mixer panel next to Sources. This one is pretty simple. It will auto-detect the audio from your sources and list them down. If you have an external microphone, it should pop in here as well. Just move the sliders to control the volume from your audio sources and connected devices. There’s also a mute function.
These scenes are the only things viewers on YouTube will see once you broadcast. You can alt+tab out of the game to check on your chat or other backend things, and your audience will just see your game and/or facecam.
Now that you’re set up in OBS, we move on to tweaking your game settings.
Setting Up Your PC Game for Streaming
The quality of live streams varies wildly, and most viewers understand this. That’s why it’s best not to worry too much about how high you set your PC game’s graphics for your first few streams.
Setting the game’s graphics to medium preset is a safe bet. OBS will do most of the work. It will process and blast what it detects from your gameplay source, so it boils down to how you’d set up your streaming software.
The main performance issues from the game’s side are frame rate and screen tearing. You must do a bit of play-testing before streaming. From the game’s setting, experiment with capping or uncapping frame rates, using Vsync, or turning specific visual quality preferences down or up.
Then test, test, and test again until you find that sweet spot where the game runs smoothly without eating up too much of your system’s resources. Because your PC isn’t just running your game. The streaming software is also doing heavy work encoding and decoding, compiling your feeds, and more.
Some new games have a streaming mode, which censors adult content and replaces licensed music with copyright-free soundtracks. Enable it, if possible. This will lessen the chance of your archived video getting reported or claimed by copyright owners.
Once you’ve set up your game, it’s stream-testing time.
Check Your Stream on YouTube
Schedule a stream and set it to unlisted.
With the game running and your scenes composed, click Start Streaming at the lower right corner of OBS’ interface. If you put in the right stream key, OBS will connect with YouTube in a few seconds, and you’ll see your feed on YouTube Studio’s preview screen.
The ANALYTICS tab will open up. This is where you monitor your stream stats, like concurrent viewers, watchtime, etc. Check the STREAM HEALTH for quality-related logs, like bitrate drops.
Click the “GO LIVE” button in the upper right corner to start your test stream. It will be much better if you have another device like a laptop, tablet, or phone, for monitoring the quality of your stream.
If you do, get the private link for your live stream by clicking the share button next to “GO LIVE”. Copy the link and send it to yourself. Watch the stream on a regular YouTube page as if you’re a viewer. Have friends help quality-check your broadcast if possible.
Test your scene transitions, audio, and play the game for a few minutes. Get into some graphically intensive parts of the game. See if OBS and YouTube can keep up. A delay of around 10 seconds, even on low latency, is normal.
Check the feed in real-time or just fiddle about for a few minutes then end your stream.
Wait for a few minutes, then go to your channel and go to ”MANAGE VIDEOS” near the upper right corner. Playback your recently ended stream. Check for overall quality, and do adjustments to OBS and your game.
Do this a few more times if you want a polished stream.
Once you’re happy with everything, then you’re all set up to stream pc games on YouTube!
What is the best streaming setup for YouTube?
Unlike other video-sharing platforms with a live streaming service, YouTube Studio isn’t feature-heavy. It has live chat, and viewers give donations if they want. The tips you get from YouTube are real-world money and not in platform-specific currency, like bits or cheers.
All you need is a verified account and a webcam, and you can start a live broadcast. You can even do it from mobile devices. As far as gaming is concerned, YouTube streams whatever your software sends it. It’s in keeping with the platform’s “for everyone” image.
So, what IS the best streaming setup for YouTube? Well, it’s the one you have right now. You change YouTube, the streaming software, and the game’s settings according to your current hardware and internet connection.
Don’t stress yourself out thinking your setup is inadequate. A fleshed-out setup with multiple monitors, stream decks, and professional lighting can wait. Branded, top-quality live streaming gear are costly, too. Consider building your system up when things start going well for you.
For now, use what you have. Learn the more complex features of your preferred software. And have fun streaming!