April 20-Facebook launched a new mobile app called Facebook Gaming today that allows users to play and stream their favorite titles. The social network intended to introduce its new product this summer but expedited its release to address COVID-19 generated demand in online gaming. The app does not host advertising right now and has been downloaded 5 million times via the Google Play Store.
Facebook Gaming Details
Ostensibly, Facebook Gaming is the social media company’s version of Amazon’s Twitch and Microsoft’s Mixer, only with greater accessibility. The platform hosts a range of popular mobile games like “Words With Friends” and easy to use live streaming tools. The app also lets content creators earn money through “stars,” an in-program payment system.
Facebook also generates revenue through stars by collecting a commission on each financial transfer.
The Big Tech firm developed its new product after discovering 700 million of its 2.5 billion users engage with gaming content. The corporation first deployed its Gaming app for testing 18 months ago in Southeast Asia and Latin America. The company planned to launch its new app in June but changed tact after COVID-19 related lockdown orders prompted millions of homebound students and workers to get reacquainted with gaming.
Indeed, Microsoft and Sony said the Xbox and PlayStation ecosystems have seen “record levels of engagement” during the pandemic.
The Silicon Valley corporation wants to leverage its ubiquity to claim a bigger piece of the $160 billion online gaming market. The firm also views expansion into the streaming sphere as a continuation of its mission to bring individuals together. “Investing in gaming in general has become a priority for us because we see gaming as a form of entertainment that really connects people,” said Facebook app head Fidji Simo.
As of this writing, Facebook gaming is only available on Android, but Apple is vetting an iOS iteration.
Will Facebook Gaming Succeed?
In its 16 year history, Facebook has successfully released new products (Messenger) and acquired and optimized a few outside properties (WhatsApp, Instagram). However, the corporation has also launched a slew of spin-off projects (Riff, Rooms, Slightshot) that failed to take flight. Although Gaming could join the ranks of the social network’s failed ideas, it has real potential to become something substantial.
For one thing, the company’s platform is already the third-biggest game streaming service by viewership behind Twitch and YouTube. The app also benefits from having monetization tools at launch, so it could be a profit-generating rather than a money-losing proposition for the company. Moreover, the corporation enticed notable personalities like ex-Twitch streamer Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios and former UFC champion Rhonda Rousey into exclusive partnerships.
The most significant indicator that Facebook Gaming will be around for a while is CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in augmented reality (AR) eyewear. The executive believes smart glasses will supplant smartphones and has dedicated his firm’s resources to developing AR hardware and software.
The corporation could help accelerate that transition by building a massive game streaming community. After all, the novelty of holographic restaurant menus and 3D pop-up messaging can only sustain consumer interest for so long. With its resources, Facebook could provide the quality of experience and accessibility necessary to make “lets plays” and eSports as commonplace as watching TV.