If you’re used to the simple broadcast menus of Xbox and PlayStation then you may be confused when trying to stream gameplay from Nintendo Switch. While the Switch does let you capture and share gameplay videos using the capture button on the left Joy-Con, it does not extend to live-streaming that gameplay to sites like Twitch or YouTube. But you still can get your gameplay out there to audiences on the net. It’ll just take a bit of work. Here’s how to get started streaming on your Switch.
Have the right Switch
It’s worth mentioning straight away that you can only stream gameplay live from the classic or OLED Nintendo Switch, not the Switch Lite. This is because you’ll need to output video to an external display using the Switch’s dock, and the Lite does not have the hardware to do this. There’s no news yet on whether Nintendo plans to add support for on-device streaming, though given its streamlined tech specs it’s unlikely the Switch Lite is beefy enough to handle long-term display capture on its own.
You can still record gameplay clips up to 30 seconds on the Switch Lite by holding the capture button down. If you want to gather lots of these together to make gaming videos, you could do so by upgrading your on-board storage with a MicroSD card before transferring your video clips in batch to your computer. Sorry if this puts an end to your streaming plans early, but if you have the big Switch, with detachable Joy-Cons and a dock, carry on.
Get a capture card
Since there’s no built-in way of sending gameplay out over the net for others to watch from your Switch, you’ll need to capture video and broadcast it yourself. To capture gameplay from the Switch you’ll need a device called a capture card. Connect it between your TV and Switch, and it'll send footage out to your PC as well. The main suppliers in the capture card business are Elgato and AVerMedia, so check over their offerings and pick the box that works for you. We've recommend aiming for at least 1080p and 60fps to ensure your streams are smooth and clear.
Connect it up
These capture devices work by adding a link to your PC between your Switch and TV. Start by plugging the USB from the capture card into the PC you’ll be using to encode and broadcast video. Next, plug the HDMI out from the Switch into the capture card, then use a second HDMI cable to connect the out port from the capture card to your TV or display. The capture device uses passthrough to let you see your gameplay while recording, or in this case broadcasting it. This can add a small amount of input latency to your display, but shouldn’t be too intrusive. Depending on how far your PC is from your Switch display, you may need longer HDMI cables -- so make sure you measure up and order accordingly!
Choose your streaming software
Once you have the capture device working on your PC, you’ll need software to send it to your streaming service of choice. There are a few main choices here: Open Broadcast Software Studio (OBS) is the most common choice for beginner streamers as it's powerful and free to use. XSplit has tailor-made plugins and can do more complex overlays and transitions, but does have a subscription cost for the more powerful features. Twitch also has its own software, Twitch Studio, which could make everything a bit easier if you plan on streaming exclusively there.
Set up your software and streaming platform
Once you’ve got your preferred software, you need to set it up. Each is slightly different and will have documentation on their main help or FAQ pages to guide you through in more detail, but we’ll lay out the basics here. When you’ve decided on which streaming site you want to use -- be it Twitch, YouTube or something else -- find your broadcast dashboard (usually under your account settings, found by clicking your profile picture). On the dashboard, there will be something called a Stream Key. This string of numbers and letters will identify your account when sending video to the site’s streaming servers, broadcasting it on the right page. You'll need this key to link your streaming account to your broadcast software of choice, but make sure you do not share it with anyone else or they will be able to stream to your account without your permission.
Once you have your Stream Key, you need to find the settings of your streaming software (e.g. OBS). Find the option within that asks for your Stream Key and paste it in there. Other options to do with bitrate and other technical upload specs can be worked out by heading to a bitrate calculator and putting in your numbers. You’ll need to know the output resolution (for Switch it’s likely to just be 720p) and your internet upload bandwidth to make sure you can stream without buffering.
After everything is put in properly and you’ve done some testing to iron out the kinks, you’re ready to show your Switch gameplay to the world! Have fun streaming your Switch adventures to fans and friends!