Facebook has announced that as of Oct 28 2022, it will close its stand-alone Gaming app and will no longer be offering gaming streaming as part of its Facebook Gaming. The closing will mark 2 ½ years of Facebook’s effort to overtake Twitch in featuring an app where gaming enthusiasts could watch their favorite streamers compete, connect and converse with the streamers and with other like-minded viewers and play instant Vegas casino online real money games without downloading separate apps.
The Facebook Gaming app launched in April 2020. Facebook believed that, through its massive social media network it would be able to overcome Twitch and YouTube as a platform where gamers could stream their content and users could watch and connect with the streamers and with each other. Facebook Gaming got off to a big start by partnering with Microsoft which had just closed down its own streaming platform, Mixer, and was now funneling its popular streamers to Facebook.
During the course of the stand-alone app’s existence, it faced hurdles, notably Twitch’s continued dominance as #1 streaming platform, strong competition from #2 YouTube and a dispute with Apple which refused to accept the app in their App Store until Facebook removed actual gameplay functionality from the app based on their guidelines that prohibited apps whose main purposes involve distributing casual games.
Facebook, which renamed itself as “Meta”, told TechCrunch, “We know how important gaming is to our community and remain committed to connecting our gaming community with the content they love. The standalone Facebook Gaming app has been an incredible environment for our gaming team to test and iterate on a wide variety of gaming-specific features and products, and many of these features have found a home in the main Facebook App.
We’ll continue to support our gaming communities, developers, and creators on the main Facebook app where hundreds of millions of people play games, watch gaming video, and connect in gaming Groups each month.”
Despite the app’s imminent shutdown, the Facebook web-based version of its game streaming platform will remain online.
Insiders weren’t surprised by the announcement and say that it had been coming for a long time. Even though the market for streaming content boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic but a declining viewership in the post-COVID landscape, combined with mistakes on Facebook’s part in launching the app, spelled problems for the stand-alone app almost from the word “go.”
For one thing, say analysts, Facebook didn’t lay the proper groundwork for the app. They should have put more effort into signing on a larger number popular streamers. Instead they relied on personalities like Ramee and DisguisedToast in their rivalry with Twitch.
In addition, the decision to integrate it within the Facebook mobile app made the gaming app redundant. Since the majority of Facebook users use the mobile app for both social networking and streaming, it was easier for them to stay within the mobile app rather than open up a second, Facebook Gaming app, so it never acquired a big enough base to allow it to become profitable.
This seems to have caused Facebook to rely too heavily on numbers as many of the views were from the Facebook app, not the Facebook Gaming app.
Facebook Gaming (and, to some extent, Microsoft’s Mixer) are cautionary tales of what can happen when a tech giant strays too far into someone else’s territory. Streamers and viewers made it clear that they continue to prefer Twitch which is totally a streaming platform and makes no effort to be anything else. By 2022 Facebook Gaming wasn’t even completely a gaming platform.
Top live streams were often pre-recorded, many of the most-watched accounts weren’t even gamers but were suspicious accounts promoting various political agendas or product sales and a large chunk of the real gamers’ video views disappeared. All this made it difficult for serious game streamers to build an enthusiastic audience around their work or make a name for themselves.
The failure of Facebook Gaming showed the limitations of its strategy to copy its competitors’ success. The company started out with a strong edge thanks to the integration into Facebook’s social media platform and gamers’ impression that they’d be able to stand out with less competition than they were facing on Twitch.
But, over time, streamers found that that they were getting fewer live viewers and an accompanying reduction in interaction. Worse, some viewers complained that the streams that they were seeing were unwelcome and unwanted because Facebook was seeding gaming videos across newsfeeds of people who weren’t even interested in such content.
The videos would autoplay as users who were not gaming fans scrolled. Streamers’ metrics plummeted and they left, leaving the space to be filled with pre-recorded, off-topic videos.
Even though number of hours watched on Facebook Gaming rose, streamers were not reaching their viewers and many of them left. Facebook’s strategy, which relied heavily on “partnerships”, “sponsorships” and other forms of financial compensation for the streamers, didn’t take into account the fact that game live-streamers draw a younger audience than TV and movies where viewers engage more with sponsorships and ads.
Advertisers may be wary of investing money in content where they don’t have a way to measure whether the ads are simply playing on channels or is reaching real, attentive humans.
The failure of Facebook Live hasn’t dimmed FB’s plans for the future. They are in the midst of testing a new livestreaming platform called “Super” for influencers and with short-form video “Reels.” The company plans to continue its focus on its VR Oculus program and on expanding its involvement in the Metaverse.