If you want to see Twitch/YouTubeâ€™s influence on the games industry, look no further than this: Here in 2016, Razerâ€”of neon-green-and-black gaming peripherals fameâ€”is putting out a webcam. â€śThe worldâ€™s first webcam designed for streamers,â€ť says this press release.
The real surprise is that it didnâ€™t happen sooner. The humble webcam has received little attention in recent years, which is surprising given the amount of video content on the Internet nowadays. The gold standard, the Logitech C920, is pretty ubiquitous in Twitch/YouTube circles and itâ€™s four years old. In peripherals, thatâ€™s ancient.
But a flurry of new tech is slowly proliferating through the channels nowâ€”Intelâ€™s RealSense 3D camera tech and Windows 10â€™s â€śHello,â€ť which lets you use facial recognition to log into your computer. And, of course, Twitch/YouTube. Suddenly thereâ€™s a need for a better webcam.
Itâ€™s perhaps deceptive of Razer to say theyâ€™ve made a gaming-centric webcam. Or maybe not deceptiveâ€”just good marketing. What Razerâ€™s done is adapted Intelâ€™s RealSense camera for desktop use. Until now, RealSense was always built into a computer, embedded into laptops or all-in-one PCs. Razerâ€™s Stargazer functions like the C920, meaning you can set it on top of your existing monitor.
And voilaâ€”now you have a webcam â€śdesigned for streamers.â€ť Iâ€™m serious.
Regardless of the marketing, Intelâ€™s RealSense tech does seem like a smart bet. Professional Twitch/YouTube streamers often have unwieldy green screen setups behind them to isolate their face from the background. This requires a large green piece of fabric, something to hang it on, and usually one or two lights. RealSense, with its depth-sensing tech, can automatically remove whateverâ€™s behind a streamer. Pretty nifty.
A partnership with Razer simply makes sure this tech gets in front of people who play video gamesâ€”people who might hear â€śIntel RealSense 3D webcamâ€ť and tune out.
The other gaming-centric feature Razerâ€™s pushing is the ability to stream/capture 720p, 60 frames per second from Stargazerâ€”something youâ€™d only care about if you were using it alongside PC games running at that frame rate. For corporate meetings/Skyping with grandma/et cetera, Stargazer can still do 1080p, 30 frames per second.
Stargazerâ€™s remaining features are a grab-bag of oddities. Facial and gesture recognition? 3D scanning? FaceRig support? While welcome, these features belie Stargazerâ€™s RealSense origins. Theyâ€™re certainly not features the average Twitch user will explore.
Last but not and least, Stargazer sports a noise-canceling, dual-array microphone. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s a decent microphone for a webcam, but anyone using this for Razerâ€™s intended purposes (Twitch/YouTube) undoubtedly owns something better.
The main concern is one of cost. Stargazerâ€™s tech might be perfect for streamers, but its price certainly isnâ€™t. I opened this by discussing the ubiquity of Logitechâ€™s C920, a 1080p30 webcam thatâ€™s become a Twitch and YouTube icon. On any given day you can go to Amazon and find the C920 for $60-70. Thatâ€™s already expensive for a webcam, but Stargazer? Razerâ€™s tagged it with a Razer-size price tag of $200. That certainly prices it out of range of some teenager streaming in his or her bedroom, and maybe even prices it out of range of that teenagerâ€™s parents.
Razerâ€™s counterpoint is that RealSense negates the need for a costly green screen setup, which is absolutely true. But a green screen setup can be cobbled together over the span of months, jury-rigged from a garage sale lamp and a half-broken curtain rod and some twine. Stargazer is just flat-out expensive. Thereâ€™s a risk people look at the C920, look at Stargazer, and decide Logitechâ€™s antiquated approach is still â€śGood enough.â€ť