After spending the past 18 months developing a platform for gamers of all sorts, Facebook is ready to introduce its Facebook Gaming app in the United States. The social media company is hoping to vie against Twitch and YouTube as coronavirus-related quarantine drives up stream watch times and hopes are held for big ad buys on the other side of the outbreak.
Facebook Gaming was already available across southeast Asia and Latin America, but its U.S. debut was fast-tracked in the wake of the pandemic.
It's a basic version of Facebook hyper-concentrated to three essential functions: watching streamers, playing games (mostly on-platform casual titles like bingo or poker clones), and talking about said streamers and games. Users can also use the platform to upload their own streams without requiring dedicated software like OBS or XSplit. The New York Times reports from interviews with the company that a tournament feature will be coming soon along with other gaming-specific features.
The company has several uphill challenges ahead of it. According to a metrics report from Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, stream viewers spent 554 million hours on Facebook in the first quarter. That's against YouTube's 1.1 billion hours and Twitch's 3.1 billion. Facebook also has one-eighth the number of unique streaming channels that YouTube has and 1/55th the channels of Twitch. The app is also currently not running ads — and, depending on the state of the ad market moving forward, it might not be for a while yet.
Indeed, the platform itself shows its youth here in the states as it kept feeding one or two dozen games and streamers as suggestions for me to follow. That should grow with time. Plus, the company says about 700 million of its 2.5 billion total user base are already engaged with some sort of gaming content on the main Facebook platform.
Even if Facebook is able to attract talent and eyeballs quickly, Gaming still might not be a profitable prospective for the foreseeable future. The company does have stockpiles of money on its side to weather the storm, though.
The Android version is currently available through the Play Store and on APK Mirror while the iOS version is still awaiting approval from Apple.