Perhaps the biggest reason why most streamers choose to focus on PC gaming is the difficulty of streaming from a console. Many consoles make it difficult to capture gameplay, so streaming from a console is confusing and sometimes complicated. The same is true of mobile games, though the solution to the two is much different. In contrast, you are often streaming from the PC that you are playing games on, which cuts a lot of time and possible technical issues.
Capture cards are quickly helping to solve this problem, and close this gap. Put very simply, a capture card can take audio and visual information from a gaming console and store it on an SD card or feed it to a computer.
OUR TOP capture card choice
Scroll down to read our in-depth review of each product.
do I need a capture card to stream?
Unsurprisingly, the streamers who will need a capture card are streamers who want to play console games. There are three main reasons for using a console on stream: budget, preference, and exclusivity.
Streamers on a budget, especially streamers of college age and younger, often own a gaming console already. Because of this, it can be much easier for them to find solutions that fit with what they already own than to buy a new gaming computer. If you are one of these people, you may be disheartened by the price of most capture cards, but we will provide options for all price ranges below.
Some streamers simply prefer to game on a console. This is an uncommon opinion, but a valid one nonetheless. Rapper Danny Brown recently began streaming, and you will often see him on his PlayStation 4.
Exclusivity is an issue that many streamers have to work around. As I’m writing this, there are hundreds of people watching Halo 5. Of course, Halo 5 is only available on the Xbox, as the franchise has been since its beginning. Most Nintendo games suffer from this same issue, as Nintendo prefers to keep its many franchises on only their consoles.
Of course, any “party streamers” will likely want to look into a capture card, as well. While PC games do sometimes support multiplayer, mostly in online form, there are a breadth of console games that are designed with multiplayer and co-op play in mind. From Mario Party and Mario Kart to Rockband and Guitar Hero, some games are just more fun with other people around. For people who aren’t just a person, capture cards aren’t a necessity, but they can certainly help.
Finally, some streamers use a capture card even when PC gaming. While the benefits of this are unclear, they are important to understand. If you are using an older computer or playing very intensive games, a capture card can help you to clear up CPU resources while gaming.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the five best capture cards on the market for every kind of streamer: