Person mobile gaming in a dark room

Facebook launches Twitch competitor amid lockdown gaming boom

Image credit: Dreamstime

This week, Facebook will launch a gaming app focused on streaming. According to the New York Times (NYT), Facebook has moved forward its planned launch day to take advantage of increased interest in game streaming as much of the world is in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The mobile app will be launched this week and will at first only be available on Android devices. Facebook plans to release the app for iOS users once it is approved by Apple.

The app will focus on the game streaming community and compete with streaming giants Amazon-owned Twitch and Google-owned YouTube, which command 61 per cent and 28 per cent of the market respectively.

Facebook already enables game streaming on the gaming tab of the core Facebook app. This has grown in popularity through massive investment, promotion, and partnerships with high-profile figures; according to a StreamElements report, it saw a 210 per cent increase in hours watched between December 2018 and 2019. The new standalone Facebook Gaming app will also feature more basic games that people may already play online, such as Words with Friends

A 'Go Live' button will allow users to start streaming games as they play on their device. These live streams will appear on their profile – and can be shared to their personal Facebook page – making it easier for friends and followers to watch.

Facebook Gaming app preview


Image credit: Facebook

“There are a lot of people who listen to music and say “I can imagine myself being a musician”,” said Vivek Sharmer, Facebook's VP for gaming. “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.”

The app was originally intended for a June launch, according to the NYT, although Facebook has moved the launch forwards in order to take advantage of increased interest in game streaming and viewing amid the widespread coronavirus lockdown.

The app will be free to download and – for now – will not contain ads. Instead, Facebook will monetise the app by taking an unknown portion of donations given by users to streamers they like.

Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook Gaming app, told the NYT: “Investing in gaming in general has become a priority for us because we see gaming as a form of entertainment that really connects people. It’s entertainment that’s not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together”

Simo said that increased interest in gaming during the coronavirus pandemic had given Facebook a nudge to accelerate a number of gaming projects, including a new tournament feature.

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