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Can Facebook Gaming take Twitch’s advertising crown?

Facebook has made its biggest move yet in the lucrative world of live game streaming with the launch of its new ‘Gaming’ app on the Android Play Store. With ample opportunities to monetise, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this will be one of the apps Facebook has created in the last 10 years that may be successful.

The app allows users to play casual arcade-style games with friends but, as with most things Facebook, it is aimed at connecting users through creating and watching live gameplay – a sector currently dominated by Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube.

Those keen gamers among us can choose to live stream as they play, and there’s also an explore tab for those who prefer to watch others streaming. Similarly to Twitch, you can even chat with people that are watching the same live stream.

Facebook isn’t new to gaming and has already seen a massive growth of game streaming between 2018 and 2019. But it has been lagging behind the big players in recent years. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Facebook Gaming already existed on browsers and in the Facebook mobile app.

But with the launch of its new Gaming App, it has its own dedicated platform to make streaming and playing easier and pitch itself against the big rivals.

And while a few of the previous Facebook apps (such as Places, Slingshot, Poke, Notify, Lifestage, Confetti, or Lasso) found it harder to get off the ground due to a lack of an inbuilt audience, Facebook Gaming can already sidestep that.

The opportunity for advertisers

Facebook Gaming is currently ad-free but as market share increases, Facebook will most likely look to monetise the platform. We can look at other platforms to predict the way that brands could get involved.

Rewarded gaming

Players watch ads for in-game rewards or benefits. For example: ‘watch this 30-second ad in return for an extra life’. Facebook already has this ad format in some of its games, so we’d anticipate this could be one of the first ads offered as a direct extension to its existing product.

Mid-roll video ads

Twitch offers 30-second ads, just like TV, that play when streamers take a quick comfort break in the middle of streams. Facebook Live has a similar platform for 15-second video, so I think we can anticipate that brands will be able to run 15-second videos in this space.

Affiliates and sponsored products

YouTube allows streamers to post links to sites to purchase products, meaning some brands use the platform for affiliate promotions. Twitch doesn’t offer this but it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine Facebook using its shoppable formats (the platform just launched shoppable Food posts for restaurant delivery in the US) to push relevant products in streams.

Influencers

If Facebook Gaming does develop, we’d expect to see brands collaborating with influencers. This already happens a fair amount on other platforms; you can see Ninja (a popular Fortnite streamer) in the latest Adidas ads, as well as in collaborations with Samsung and others.

Sponsored content

Twitch has a talent and content team that helps create bespoke content for brands in conjunction with their streamers. Facebook will need to bring in some larger, more dedicated streamers in order for this to really take-off, however.

How does it compare to Twitch?

It’s important to recognise the difference in the games being streamed on Facebook Gaming and Twitch.

Twitch users often stream high-end games requiring PCs that cost thousands of dollars. This means many viewers are ‘hardcore gamers’, which drives advertising revenue from gaming companies (although it’s worth noting that 50% of Twitch’s UK ad revenue comes from non-gaming brands).

Facebook’s games run off smartphones, which have a fraction of the power of gaming PCs. Therefore the Gaming app is pitched more towards the casual gaming crowd with a real focus on personalities rather than skill. With a more casual gaming focus, there may be more room for non-gaming brands to get involved with Facebook’s offering.

Time will tell whether it can attract users and talent from the established players in the market. But if the numbers are anything to go by (such as a 210% growth in hours viewed year-on-year), Facebook has had a solid start that could boost its gaming presence.

Will McMahon is senior video strategy director at Spark Foundry.

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