Update: The Facebook Gaming app is now live for Android users. You can download it from here.
Facebook’s gaming division is ramping up efforts to compete with Twitch and YouTube with a new, dedicated mobile app that will let enthusiasts easily discover and watch live gameplays — leaving no stone unturned in its effort to capitalize on the spike in video game streaming.
Simply called Facebook Gaming, according to a report in The New York Times, the app is expected to launch publicly for Android phones on Monday, April 20, after about 18 months of testing in select regions. The company eventually plans to release it for iOS “once Apple approves” the listing.
In addition to curating content from professional streamers, the app will also allow users to play casual games such as Words With Friends, and it includes a feature called Go Live to let anyone stream themselves playing mobile games.
Until now, users who wanted to watch gaming streams on Facebook had to jump through a few hoops on the already cluttered main app. The social networking giant claims 700 million of its 2.5 billion monthly users engage with gaming content; the new app is expected to make Facebook Gaming a lot more accessible for these millions of users. But other than Messenger, Facebook hasn’t had much success with spinoff apps, so it remains to be seen whether this new app ends up being an exception.
“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,” Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, told the Times.
Over the last few weeks, as video game streaming figures surge across the world, companies have been actively optimizing their platforms to capture the growing traffic. Even after so many years, however, Facebook Gaming hasn’t been able to stand its grounds against Amazon’s Twitch and YouTube that together today command over 90% of the market. And looming over the horizon is Microsoft’s Mixer that has been roping in popular streamers through exclusive contracts.
As per StreamLabs, a live-streaming platform, from February to March, watch hours soared by 23% on Twitch, 10.7% on YouTube Gaming Live, 3.8% on Facebook Gaming, and 14.9% on Mixer.
Facebook itself, earlier in April, launched a tool called Tournaments that enabled games to organize and take part in virtual competitions. “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,” added Simo added.