Facebook launched its game streaming app, “Facebook Gaming”, yesterday. The app was initially pegged for a June launch, but Facebook said it was released sooner “given the state of the world”, referencing to the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced more people to stay at home. Facebook’s app will be up against Amazon-owned Twitch and YouTube Gaming. The company told the New York Times that it tested the Facebook Gaming app in Southeast Asia and Latin America over the last 18 months before launch.
“The Facebook Gaming app is a focused, gaming-only experience where you can watch your favorite streamers, play instant games and take part in gaming groups,” the company said in a tweet.
📣 Launch announcement 📣🧵
1/ We know you’ve waited patiently. Well folks the day has come: we're launching FarmVille in VR! j/k, sorry, kind mobs of Twitter, don’t @ us! We're actually launching the Facebook Gaming app on Google Play.
— Facebook Gaming (@FacebookGaming) April 20, 2020
For now, the service can either be accessed via a website, or an Android app, but Facebook said that the iOS version of the app is “in the works”, without specifying a timeframe of launching the app on the iPhone and iPad. We’ve asked Facebook about this. At the time of publication, the app had been downloaded over 5 million times on the Play Store.
Facebook Gaming’s interface is similar to Facebook app: We tested the app on Android the overall interface of the app resembles that of the Facebook core app, except that the content on the timeline is videos that are either being currently streamed, or have been uploaded by other users. We also found that users can also watch videos without having the app opened, as the video remains open as a pop up in the user interface.
The app already includes some casual games that can be played and streamed as soon as a user installs the app. We were also able to see the games that our Facebook friends were playing, and it is also possible to host and join tournaments with friends.
How users can go live on the app: To go live, the app requests to be “displayed over apps”, and cautions that if permission to this is allowed, it might interfere with a user’s user of the other apps or change the way they seem to appear or behave. Users can then select which app they would want to play live.
Interestingly, it isn’t necessary for users to go live using a gaming app. We could go live with the Amazon app, and were informed that as soon as we decide to go live, the camera, audio and entire screen, including notifications and alerts will be visible while we are live. The app also cautioned us that while recording or casting, Facebook Gaming can capture any sensitive information displayed on the screen, including audio, passwords, and payment information among others.
Business model: There are currently no advertisements in the Facebook Gaming app, but the company told the New York Times that it will make money when viewers send “stars,” representing sums of money, to streamers, effectively taking a commission.