Twitch and YouTube don’t have much competition when it comes to streaming platforms for the gaming community, but Facebook wants to change that with a new dedicated mobile gaming app.
Facebook’s gaming app will largely curate and focus on the streaming community, although it will also highlight casual games that people might play online already, including Words with Friends, according to the New York Times. The app, which is set to be introduced on April 20th, will also reportedly only be available on Android devices at first. The company has plans to release the app for iOS devices once “Apple approves them.” The Verge has reached out to Facebook for additional information.
With Facebook Gaming’s continued growth, and the current increase in viewership and streaming as a whole while people are stuck at home during the pandemic, the company feels like now is the perfect time to launch the app. It was originally supposed to launch in June, according to the Times, but Facebook moved it up to meet current demand.
1/ We know you’ve waited patiently. Well folks the day has come: we’re launching FarmVille in VR! j/k, sorry, kind mobs of Twitter, don’t @ us! We’re actually launching the Facebook Gaming app on Google Play.
— Facebook Gaming #playaparttogether (@FacebookGaming) April 20, 2020
“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, told the New York Times. “It’s entertainment that’s not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together.”
Facebook has invested in gaming for years, and has tried to build up its streaming community by partnering with different creators and hosting esports tournaments. Despite Facebook’s large user base — more than 2.5 billion people use Facebook every month — it still lags behind Twitch and YouTube (owned by Amazon and Google, respectively) when it comes to hours of gameplay watched.
That said, Facebook Gaming is growing. Facebook Gaming saw a 210 percent 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.gg. Streaming content on Facebook saw a six percent increase in the number of streamers, and a 78 percent 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.
“Facebook Gaming has been making incredible strides as they’ve leveraged their global presence and strategic talent acquisitions to bolster their market share in the livestreaming space,” Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements, said in a statement to The Verge when Rousey’s partnership was announced in February. “By adding Ronda Rousey, a very mainstream celebrity whose into gaming, to their roster, it’s another great move since content is king, but you need a kingdom to make it matter.”
Twitch and YouTube still dominate the industry, though. Twitch commanded 61 percent of hours watched in December 2019, with YouTube maintaining another 28 percent of the market. In fourth place is Microsoft’s Mixer, which saw just under three percent of all hours spent watching livestreams.
New tools might help Facebook chip away at Twitch and YouTube’s dominance. Facebook is trying to make it easier for its users to start streaming by adding a “Go Live” button. The function “lets users upload streams of other mobile games on the same device by pressing just a few buttons,” according to the Times. Once people are live, streams will appear on their personal pages, making it easier for friends and followers to watch. Like YouTube and Twitch, Facebook does offer monetization to some of its streamers. Similar to Twitch’s affiliate status and YouTube’s Partner Program, Facebook’s “Level Up” is designed to allow content creators to monetize.
“People are watching streams and they’re like, ‘I want to be a streamer,’ and with Go Live it’s literally just a few clicks and then live, you’re a streamer,” Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president for gaming, told the Times.
What’s evident from new statistics coming in every day is that live-streaming is booming; The Verge‘s resident Twitch expert Bijan Stephen deemed it “live-streaming’s moment” a few weeks ago. Facebook is clearly hoping that it can meet the increased demand with a brand new project that people latch onto.