I've got a confession to make: Even though I'm PCWorld's gaming and graphics editor as well as a compulsive hoarder of in-game screenshots and video clips, very few of those gaming moments--practically none, if I'm being honest--make their way to my social media feeds. It just feels weird spamming all my non-gamer friends and family with a flood of Dying Light heroics on Facebook.
As it turns out, I'm not the only one who feels that way, and that realization has led Raptr--the service powering AMD and Intel's PC game streaming and optimization efforts--to create a new social network devoted solely to PC gamers. Plays.TV revolves around sharing and talking about video clips of glorious gaming moments, complete with hashtags and a central feed of clips from the people you choose to follow.
"It's basically like Instagram for gamers," Dennis "Thresh" Fong, CEO of Raptr, told me in a phone interview.
Plays.TV's genesis has its roots in the gameplay recording introduced in the Raptr client and AMD's Gaming Evolved app nine months ago. While users have captured more than 4 million gameplay videos since then, Raptr noticed that only around one percent of recorded videos were shared using the social tools baked into the client. Rather than scrapping the social-sharing feature, Raptr's team dug into the root cause and discovered that most gamers--like me--are reticent to share their clips on traditional social media.
As a result, Plays.TV was born. The site's been being tested in beta by a small percentage of Raptr users over the past few months before its big rollout today.
Don't confuse Plays.TV with Twitch, the 800-pound gorilla in the game-streaming room. Twitch is built around sharing a live stream of your active play sessions; Raptr's site displays short, curated clips of moments that gamers find interesting, discovered via your feed, by browsing a general list of games, or by finding clips via hashtag.
The Plays.TV client
The Raptr and AMD Gaming Evolved clients will be able to share clips to the new service, but Raptr's also taking a page from Facebook's playbook and is rolling out a standalone Plays.TV client devoted exclusively to capturing and editing your gameplay videos, so you don't have to clog up your PC with all of Raptr's software if you're only interested in the new site.
The Plays.TV client--which also launched today, albeit in beta form--keeps its focus narrow. The streamlined interface is split between two straightforward tabs: My Videos and Replays.
By default, the Plays.TV client saves your entire game play session in the Replays tab. The My Videos tab, meanwhile, stores clips you've manually saved, either by pressing Crtl + F2 to save the last 20 seconds of gameplay or Crtl + ; to manually start and stop a clip. Various settings let you change the video quality and length of saved clips--you can configure Crtl + F2 to save up to your last 20 minutes of gameplay, for instance. Plays.TV, like the primary Raptr client, utilizes hardware-accelerated video encoding to save the footage without impacting the game's performance.
Play.TV's secret sauce reveals itself once you've saved clips. Shadowplay and OBS force you to use a third-party video-editing program if you want to tinker with footage you've captured, but the Plays.TV app comes with a basic video editor baked in that lets you select a specific portion of the clip to share. (You can also opt to share your clips to Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, though as we've already established, you probably won't.) Once you've uploaded your clip, the client wipes it from your hard drive to prevent filling it up with videos (you can disable that setting if you'd like).
Raptr's Plays.TV client can actually suck in videos taken with alternate video capture programs, to facilitate easier editing and sharing to the network even if you prefer to not use Raptr's software, but the official client automatically detects which game a video is associated with and slaps the appropriate hashtag and classification on it. The Plays.TV client works with every PC game, Fong says.
All in all, the beta Plays.TV client is a handy, streamlined video-sharing solution, and one that removes a major barrier of entry for sharing game clips.
The proof is in the product
Of course, none of that matters if people don't use the core Plays.TV service itself. I spent the weekend mucking around with Plays.TV and even though its community was limited due to its secret beta status, I found myself strangely drawn to the service.
I'm not much of a Twitch streamer, aside from checking out new games when they launch. But after following a handful of "featured gamers," I found scrolling through Plays.TV's feed somewhat addicting. The barrage of short, interesting clips gives the site an almost "OK, just one more" feel that--as any Civilization player who says "OK, just one more turn" can attest--can quickly turn into hours wasted if you're not careful.
Whereas watching a Twitch stream feels like a long-term commitment, Plays.TV feels like a snack, highlighting only the most interesting parts of games: 15 seconds of exploding zombies here, 30 seconds of epic Battlefield 4 feats there, a barrage of brief League of Legends highlights. The use of hashtags for the individual games helps if you want to get away from your feed and limit your focus to a single title--I spent way too much time watching #DyingLight.
It's too early to tell if Plays.TV's community will take off the way Raptr no doubt hopes it will, and the community will be the life or death of this service, but I already know one thing: Plays.TV is a site I'll be going back and checking often after this article's published. Who knows? I may even share some clips of my own.