Game streaming is a massive business that keeps on growing. Sites such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming bring in millions of viewers, and now Microsoft has joined the party with the acquisition of an eight-month-old service that's faster and more interactive than its competitors.

The Windows maker has just bought Beam, a Seattle-based service that uses low-latency technology to allow viewers almost real-time interaction with streamers. Beam CEO Matt Salsamendi says the delay is around 200 milliseconds, whereas the action on rival sites such as Twitch is delayed by around 10 to 15 seconds.

Not only does this reduced lag improve chat elements, but it also enables more active interaction from those watching. Viewers can, for example, suggest challenges, alter weapon loadouts, and select quests via visual controls. Additionally, developers can create special button layouts that offer greater levels of input from fans. It's basically like an improved version of Twitch Plays.

Beam launched in January this year. 100,000 users joined the service within its first few months and the company won TechCrunch Disrupt's $50,000 prize startup competition in May. Microsoft didn't reveal how much it paid for Beam.

"We at Xbox are excited about this convergence between playing and watching, and want to provide gamers with the freedom and choice to have great multiplayer experiences across all of Beam's platforms," said Chad Gibson, a partner group program manager at Microsoft's Xbox Live division, in a statement "This acquisition will help gamers enjoy the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want."

Beam said the deal won't affect its current users and it will continue to offer broadcasts across all gaming platforms. It added that as it becomes part of the Xbox team, expect to see more features, interactive game integrations and community members.