Facebook will introduce an app designed for creating and watching live gameplay on Monday.
The free app, which carries no advertising, was originally intended for release in June but the spread of the coronavirus prodded the company to accelerate its plans to meet the surge in gaming resulting from Covid-19 quarantine measures adopted around the world.
Facebook, which has more than 700 million of its 2.5 billion monthly users engaged with gaming content, will make money on the new app by taking a cut of “stars,” which fans can buy and send to gaming streamers.
Facebook Inc is planning to launch a gaming mobile app on April 20 focused mainly on live game streaming in a bid to take on Amazon.com Inc’s Twitch, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft Corp’s Mixer services, the New York Times reported on April 19.
Facebook Gaming was originally scheduled to be released in June, but the company moved up its plans as coronavirus quarantine keeps people at home, the report said.
“Investing in gaming in general has become a priority for us because we see gaming as a form of entertainment that really connects people,” the newspaper quoted Fidji Simo, head of the gaming app, as saying.
“It’s entertainment that’s not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together,” Simo said.
The iOS versions of the app will be released upon Apple’s approval, it added
“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 Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, who reports to the Silicon Valley company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
“It’s entertainment that’s not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together.”
Simo said the pandemic had prodded the company to speed up other gaming projects, too, including a new tournament feature. “We’re seeing a big rise in gaming during quarantine,” she said.
The company tested the Facebook Gaming app in South-east Asia and Latin America over the past 18 months and plans to release it on the Google Play store for Android devices. Versions for iOS will be released once Apple approves them, Facebook said.
Facebook has an uneven track record of spinning off separate apps under its brand, such as Facebook Camera and Facebook Paper. Some non-Facebook apps it acquired, including Instagram and WhatsApp, have thrived, however.
Although Facebook was a top gaming platform a decade ago during the FarmVille era, the company hasn’t been a dominant force in recent years.
In the game streaming market, Facebook is No. 3 in total hours watched, behind YouTube and Twitch, according to Streamlabs. Viewers currently watch Facebook game streaming with the core Facebook app and on the new app in the developing markets where it’s already available.
The new app includes casual games and access to gaming communities, but its fate will depend largely on how successfully it entices people to watch and create live game streams. A function called Go Live lets users upload streams of other mobile games on the same device by pressing just a few buttons.
Those streams can then be shared to someone’s personal Facebook page, potentially making it much easier for people to become amateur streamers.
By contrast, streaming mobile games to Twitch, the market leader, generally requires people to install more complicated third-party programs or connect their mobile device to a computer.
“There are a lot of people who listen to music and say, ‘I can imagine myself being a musician,’” said Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president 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 has no advertising within it, for now.