With millions of video game aficionados homebound and looking for action, Facebook has released an Android app called Facebook Gaming a couple of months before it intended to do so, after 18 months of testing in Southeast Asia and Latin America. An iOS version will follow once it gains the Apple imprimatur.
“The new app … is aimed at the 700 million monthly Facebook users who have engaged with the network's game content. The app will have a big focus on streamers, whether you're watching them or streaming content yourself, thanks to a ‘Go Live’ feature that will make it easy to stream mobile games. It will also let you play Facebook games like Words with Friends and Uno through the app,” writes James O'Connor for GameSpot.
“Investing in gaming in general has become a priority for us because we see gaming as a form of entertainment that really connects people,” Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, tells The New York Times’ Seth Schiesel, who broke the story. “It’s entertainment that’s not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together.”
Simo, who reports to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “said the pandemic had prodded the company to speed up other gaming projects, too, including a new tournament feature. ‘We’re seeing a big rise in gaming during quarantine,’ she said,” Schiesel writes.
“Facebook, which has more than 700 million of its 2.5 billion monthly users engaged with gaming content, will make money on the new app by taking a cut of ‘stars,’ which fans can buy and send to gaming streamers,” writes Bloomberg’s Sebastian Tong.
“Set to take on the likes of Twitch, Mixer and YouTube Gaming, the Facebook Gaming app will provide users a new destination to watch and create livestreaming content based around mobile games. Additionally, it’s expected that the Instant Games feature that was once present in Messenger will make its way over to Facebook Gaming, allowing users to compete against each other in bite-sized games such as Words With Friends and Galaga,” writes Stephen Lambrechts for TechRadar.
"Facebook Gaming saw a 210% increase in hours watched between December 2018 and December 2019, according to a report from streaming software company StreamElements, which conducts regular reports on the streaming industry with analytics partner Arsenal,” Julia Alexander reports for The Verge.
“Streaming content on Facebook saw a six percent increase in the number of streamers, and a 78% increase in the average number of viewers per hour streamed in the same time frame. Facebook has also followed Twitch and YouTube’s strategy by exclusively partnering with top talent, including former Twitch streamer Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios, YouTube personality Corinna Kopf, and former UFC champion, Ronda Rousey…,” Alexander continues.
“Twitch and YouTube still dominate the industry, though. Twitch commanded 61% of hours watched in December 2019, with YouTube maintaining another 28% of the market. In fourth place is Microsoft’s Mixer, which saw just under three percent of all hours spent watching livestreams,” Alexander adds.
Lest you have nothing else to do, besides making sourdough bread and attending a few Zoom meetings, “you can sign up for the Facebook Gaming service using your Facebook account and start streaming on the platform right away,” Pranob Mehrotra writes for XDA Developers.
“In case you’re not looking to start your streaming career anytime soon, you can also just use the app to watch other streamers. Additionally, the app also includes support for instant games that you can enjoy without downloading them onto your device first. To make streaming and watching games a more social experience on the Facebook Gaming app, the company has also included a Connect feature that you can use to join existing gaming groups and connect with other users on the platform,” Mehrotra adds.
As for the app’s own prospects in a highly competitive sector, “Facebook has an uneven track record of spinning off separate apps under its brand, such as Facebook Camera and Facebook Paper. Some non-Facebook apps it acquired, including Instagram and WhatsApp, have thrived, however,” the NYT’s Schiesel observes.