Facebook Gaming: what’s in it for mobile game developers?

Last month Facebook announced the release of its new gaming platform, Facebook Gaming, a free mobile app designed to compete with Youtube and Twitch streaming services. Hoping to secure a large piece of the already $159 billion dollar global gaming industry, the platform aims to gain a deeper level of engagement from its gaming users by allowing them to watch their favourite streamers or live stream themselves with a few simple taps. 

Alongside the streaming feature, the platform also allows users to play their favourite Facebook games such as Words with Friends and the once ubiquitous Farmville. So how exactly will Facebook’s platform translate into new opportunities for mobile developers to grow their games? We explore the ins and outs of the platform to understand where casual games will fit and whether it’s worth pursuing.

Facebook’s new app a social streaming hybrid

At first thought, a new gaming platform from Facebook sounds as though it might follow in the footsteps of Apple’s Arcade or Google’s Stradia. One sweep through the app will show that the platform is far from subscription modelled platforms currently on the market. 

Facebook’s new app was created with streaming at the forefront of its design. The free app starts by asking you to select your favourite games, before suggesting some streamers to follow. It features a new feed tab similar to Facebook, showing posts, videos and news from gaming groups, a tab for playing Facebook games, a tab for live streaming and another for messages. 

Perhaps the most competitive feature it offers is the ability to live stream games in a few quick taps. It’s an attractive feature in comparison to competitor giant’s such as Twitch and Youtube, which often require third party programs to facilitate streaming from console to mobile devices. 

Where does the value lie for developers

While the goal of Facebook’s gaming platform is clear, it’s uncertain as to where casual mobile gaming will fit into the new platform, if at all. 

As of December 2019 YouTube accounted for 28 percent of the streaming hours watched while Twitch dominated with approximately 61 percent of the market. A majority of the streaming however is of PC or console based games, which makes Facebook’s core feature of live streaming of mobile games an interesting move given the seemingly small demand for it.

In terms of games within the app, users can only play Facebook Instant games and not casual games directly from an app store. While the app’s evolution is still in its early stages, it’s an immediate loss for developers who were hoping to have their games played directly by the app’s users (without the need for download).

With that being said, there is still the opportunity for developers to capitalise on a new platform to add to their marketing channels. Users are able to live stream their gameplay from any mobile game and upload it to their personal channels, presenting opportunities for influencer collaborations and organic growth for studios and developers. While it may not bring mass users that paid acquisition brings, it could be an interesting avenue for indie developers to explore. 

Where does the value lie for developers

While Facebook Gaming has seen some success in its opening weeks thanks to endorsements from prominent gaming personalities and its existing streaming user base,  it’s unclear as to whether or not the platform will be of value to developers and studios long- term. For casual mobile game developers, it would require a large shift in demand for streamed mobile gameplay for it to be valuable in user acquisition. As it stands, mobile game streaming simply isn’t as popular as console or PC games, with audiences likely preferring more complex gameplay over more straightforward, though it should be added, equally addictive  mobile games.

With that being said, the current quarantine measures implemented as a result of COVID-19 have produced a new way of life for many that could create a demand for new streaming content. It’s a waiting game to see how the app’s popularity will increase in the coming months and how it will grow once available to iOS users (said to be coming soon!).

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