Facebook is making a big push into the gameplay streaming market with the launch of a dedicated app to compete against the likes of Mixer, Twitch and YouTube Gaming.
The Facebook Gaming app, which has been in testing in specific regions for 18 months, is live now on Android, months before its planned June release. The New York Times reports that the company felt like now was the right time to launch the app due to the current increase in viewership and streaming as people are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The app, unsurprisingly, offers a similar experience to the ‘Gaming’ tab on Facebook’s website, which lets users broadcast themselves or watch a streamer playing games instead.
However, it will also let users play games from the company’s “instant games” library from a tab inside the app without installing the software separately, and will include a feature called “Go Live” that will let users livestream mobile games directly from their smartphone to the social network.
“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 New York Times.
Facebook isn’t including ads in the app, but it will let people earn money with so-called “stars” which let fans make one-time payments. The company says it will explore more monetization options over time.
The app is available to download now on the Google Play store, with an iOS version to follow once Apple has given it the green light.
So far, Facebook’s investment in gaming has culminated in more 700 million of the sites’s 2.5 billion users actively playing games through the platform monthly.
“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 new 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.”
While the company is growing its presence in the games streaming market, with a 210% increase in hours watched between December 2018 and December 2019, it has a long way to go to catch Amazon-owned Twitch and Google’s YouTube. The former accounted for 61 percent of hours watched in December 2019, according to StreamLabs, with YouTube capturing a further 28 percent of the market.