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Twitch on the rise of Xbox One broadcasting and future of PS4 streaming (update)

Twitch broadcasting came to the PlayStation 4 first, but it's coming to the Xbox One better, at least for now.

While Sony declined to comment for this article, Twitch's vice president of marketing Matthew DiPietro tells Polygon that there are always ways to continue to evolve the experience of partner apps like the PS4's Twitch broadcast tool.

"In both instances (with Xbox One and the PS4) we worked closely with our partners to ensure their integrations matched what they wanted to roll out," DiPietro said. "Because Sony wanted their integration built in on the hardware level, they handled it themselves with our guidance, while we worked on the app in-house for Microsoft, but ensured it aligned with their vision and roadmap."

DiPietro added that while the two systems may seem to be approaching Twitch in different ways, neither has an advantage over the other in terms of core architecture and their ability to grow.

"We can't speak to the roadmap of our partner integrations, but we can say with any integration there are ways to continue to evolve the experience. Of course we hope to improve on both partnerships as we learn more about the ways console gamers use Twitch."

The Twitch PS4 broadcasting experience has been a "game changer," DiPietro said, with PlayStation 4 owners responsible for 20 percent of all Twitch broadcasts from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3. While the PS4's app came first, the Xbox One's app, due to hit on March 11, will arrive with some new features including the ability to archive streams and for viewers to join a broadcaster in game.

"We're really proud of the Twitch experience we're launching," said Xbox Live program manager Chad Gibson. "The snap mode plays extremely well for Twitch scenarios."

On the Xbox One, broadcasters can choose to snap the Twitch controls to a sidebar on the television or hide it entirely. Twitch is activated either by saying "Xbox, broadcast" or by three or four button pushes. Unlike the PS4 controller, the Xbox One controller doesn't have a "share" button.

The March update that delivers Twitch will also bring back toasts to the Xbox, the little notification pop-ups that appear on the screen. Gibson said Twitch will have its own toasts, alerting you when a friend starts broadcasting. These pop-ups, which can be disabled, won't appear on live broadcasts for others to see. Toasts alerting you that friends are online will be coming in a future update, Marc Whitten, Microsoft corporate vice president told Polygon.

Gibson said the team has also been working on preparing their moderators to deal with the influx of live video streaming the issues that may bring with it. Shortly after the PS4's launch, some users were using the console's Playroom feature to broadcast off-topic or lewd content.

Xbox moderators will be keeping an eye out for abuse of the Twitch app and have the ability to temporarily or permanently ban players. They can also remove their ability to broadcast over Twitch, without banning them.

And, Gibson said, the moderation team has already had experience with moderating video clips submitted through the Xbox One's game DVR function.

"We've had fairly significant moderation efforts and have for some time," he said.

Twitch also has it's own terms of service and moderators, DiPietro pointed out.

"We are able to quickly remove any inappropriate content that we observe or is flagged by our ever vigilant moderators and users," he said. "And we have a close partnership with both Sony and Microsoft regarding moderation processes and teams."

"We hope to see a day when playing a game is the same as broadcasting one."

The popularity of Twitch's PS4 app caused some momentary hiccups on Twitch when the console launched, and more recently the services chat system was beginning to buckle under the strain of Twitch Plays Pokemon. But DiPietro says they're prepared for the March 11 launch of the Xbox One app.

"We knew when we embarked on the next-gen console projects that they would be a hit with gamers, so we've invested heavily in our infrastructure to meet the demand," he said. "As a result, we can more easily scale up to meet the demand of new broadcasters. Also, based on our experience with the PS4, we have a better idea of what we can expect.

"As a pioneer in the live video game streaming space, we are constantly facing challenges nobody has ever encountered before. Fortunately we have some of the best engineers in the business, so with every new challenge we have found solutions, including both of those instances you mentioned. With the Xbox One integration, we are already planning for an influx of new broadcasters and will continue building out infrastructure to handle the load."

And that could be a dramatic increase, he said.

"Given the high install base of Xbox One and the massive popularity of broadcasting on the PS4, we predict there will be a significant amount of new users, especially given all of the new features," he said. "We hesitate to wager a more specific estimate, since every time the numbers are much higher than our boldest predictions."

Twitch's continued growth means that the service is now in more than half of all American households, DiPietro said.

"We hope to see a day when playing a game is the same as broadcasting one," he said. "And we're definitely on our way."

Update: Microsoft clarified that while Twitch pop-up notifications (or toasts) are coming to Xbox One with the March 11 update, friend toasts won't be coming until the following update, which could arrive as early as April. We've updated the story to reflect this.

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