Making Science

Facebook brings forward the launch of its Gaming app in response to the lockdown

David Murphy

Facebook has brought forward the launch of dedicated gaming app, designed to compete with Twitch, YouTube, and Microsoft’s Mixer platform, the BBC reports. Facebook told the BBC the early release was a direct response to the Covid-19 lockdown. The app launched on Android yesterday, with an iOS version to follow.

Using the app, gamers can play games from the company's ‘Instant Games’ library, and broadcast the content of their own mobile screen, making it easy for any user to live stream their gaming experiences. Other other users can watch live gaming streams, follow other games and leave comments without interacting with the main Facebook platform.

Prior to the launch of the app, gamers could access gaming content on Facebook via a tab in the main Facebook app, or via a dedicated website.
Facebook said it had seen 5m installs of the app during an 18-month test run in Asia and Latin America, and that more than 700m people have already interacted with its gaming products.

"The Facebook Gaming app is a prime example of gaming's resurgence at Facebook over the last few years, and we're just getting started," Vivek Sharma, vice president of Facebook Gaming, told the BBC.

While Facebook’s entry into any market is likely to worry the incumbent players, Rupantar Guha, senior analyst of thematic research at data and analytics firm GlobalData, believes the company will struggle to get traction for the app.

“By launching early, Facebook is attempting to exploit the increase in streaming caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “However, the platform currently lacks the influential game streamers that attract users to rival services such as Twitch and YouTube. Consequently, it will be forced to rely on amateur streamers to create content. Facebook will aim to convert these relative newcomers into influencers quickly to pull users to the platform, but this will be difficult given its small gaming community.

“Facebook Gaming is focused on mobile game streaming, so its main rival will be YouTube who dominates this area. Amazon’s Twitch service, on the other hand, predominantly streams PC and console-based games. However, the lack of exclusive mobile eSports streaming rights will also restrict the growth of Facebook Gaming.

“Facebook will find it difficult to attract those dedicated eSports fans that support streamers though donations. This will have an impact on both the platform’s revenues and the earnings potential of affiliated streamers. The app’s promise of ad-free streaming will also put streamers’ earnings in jeopardy, making them less likely to choose Facebook as their streaming platform.”