The reports speculated that Valve would soon launch a service designed to compete with Amazon's popular game streaming website Twitch.tv. Since, you know, esports are kind of a big deal these days, with millions upon millions of dollars on the line, and Valve's own Dota 2 game is the focus of one of the biggest esports events of the year, one which just so happens to kick off next week.
But there's no need to speculate any longer. Steam.tv went live today, and we got an early look. It looks like this:
Valve has since pulled it down, but what we saw was fairly limited anyhow: the Steam.tv website was only showing off The International, which is the giant Dota 2 tournament I was referring to earlier — so it wasn't exactly allowing any ol' Steam gamer to livestream their gameplay sessions quite yet.
But we can already see that the interface is vastly advanced compared to Steam's existing Steam Broadcasting website. It feels far more like a native web app.
Once I logged in, I was able to access my new Steam Chat friends list and group chats — the interface seems very similar to steamcommunity.com/chat, but with more functionality — and invite friends to watch videos together while we chat. (hey there @seaniccus!) The interface has room for quite a few tabs up top for additional chat windows, but weirdly the video gets minimized when you invite friends. You have to expand it again.
Oh, and there's built-in voice chat right there in your web browser, at least in Google Chrome. While the Steam.tv interface works in Firefox and Microsoft Edge, voice chat isn't supported in those browsers yet.
I also downloaded the latest Steam Beta Update on desktop to see if it unlocked any new functionality, but it doesn't seem to support Steam.tv videos — not only could I not watch The International from the desktop app, but when I started broadcasting a session of Into the Breach, and my buddy tried to watch me play via Steam.tv, it kicked him to the old Steam Broadcasting webpage instead.
A Valve representative told CNET that Steam.tv went live by accident, and was meant to be an internal test as of today: "We are working on updating Steam Broadcasting for the Main Event of The International, Dota 2's annual tournament. What people saw was a test feed that was inadvertently made public," said the company.
So far, Steam.tv looks like it could be a neat place to hang out with friends while watching games, but it's not clear from that statement if it'll be an alternative to Amazon's Twitch, Microsoft's Mixer and Google's YouTube Gaming.quite yet.
Update, 10:05 p.m. PT: Added statement from Valve that Steam.tv went live by accident.