More than 380 million people play games and 200 million watch others play video games each month on Facebook. If you combine those numbers, that’s more users than the population of the European Union. This is exactly the reason why Facebook is keen to turn its social media app into a live game streaming platform, a new approach that will not only bring new users but also helps create the biggest gaming community on the planet.
“This [gaming] is a core area by itself. It’s not like an offshoot of an entertainment strategy. It fulfills the entertainment use case but if you look at it from a broader perspective, gaming has fundamentally been a unique use case,” Manish Chopra, Director and Head of Partnerships, Facebook India tells indianexpress.com ahead of the company’s first gaming event in the country, which kicks off from Tuesday.
Chopra says there has been a greater push from Facebook in recent years to understand how its users play games and what creators expect from the social media giant. “Facebook is a very natural and very logical extension for gamers to come together and create these communities,” he said.
Facebook isn’t competing with console makers or PC gaming at large. Instead, it wants casual gamers to play games without downloading them and watch someone else play too. It’s like watching live sports or reality TV, except this is a video game. Watching someone play your favorite video games while adding humour and cracking jokes is just another form of entertainment.
“A lot of Facebook usage is serendipitous usage…you don’t normally open Facebook for a very specific purpose,” he said, adding that gaming too is discovered serendipitously. For Chopra, the priority is to increase the watch time as well as the amount of content offered with Facebook gaming.
“Gaming has become more broad-based and isn’t limited to those AAA games played by a small bunch of gamers,” Chopra stressed on why Facebook Gaming appeals to a new spectrum of users who see video games as an interactive form of entertainment and are less hardcore.
But Facebook’s larger focus to turn its social app into a video game streaming platform has something to do with India. With over 340 million Facebook users in India alone, the social media giant sees a chance to increase the number of new users using its platform through Facebook Gaming. In fact, over 234 million gameplay sessions have been recorded on Facebook from India during July and August this year, making this country the third biggest market in gameplay sessions. It also helps that almost all these are by young users.
While Facebook is seeing new users jumping onto Facebook to play and watch others play games in India, Chopra added that from now on the focus will be on bringing more creators to use its platform to make money. “Facebook provides the ability for gaming streamers to be able to leverage all the tools and the approaches that we have, and help them monetise their streams and efforts that they put into the gaming content they create.”
Facebook lets creators earn money by collecting stars, a virtual currency that fans can use to tip their favorite creators. The idea is simple: creators can upload pre-edited videos and monetise their content through collecting Stars. Those creators who sign up for the Level Up program can access Facebook Stars as well as fan subscriptions. Meanwhile, partnered gaming creators have access to live ads.
And Facebook is doing something else to tap in more creators to use its platform to broadcast them playing games in India. Not just top names, Facebook is going after regional creators who live streams in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and Punjabi languages. According to Facebook’s own data, PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire, Grand Theft Auto, Pubg: Battlegrounds and Mobile Legends were the most streamed games between July and August in India. Facebook also offers an ad-free mobile app that offers a similar experience to the Gaming tab on Facebook’s website, which lets users broadcast themselves or watch a streamer playing game instead.
Facebook’s aggressive moves into the gaming space, especially in India, shows there is room for growth in live video game broadcasts despite competition from Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube. “The market is growing at such a large scale, where there is more than enough growth for everybody,” Chopra said when asked about the competition from Twitch and YouTube, arguably the two biggest names in video game live streaming space.
While Facebook does have a strong user base in India, Chopra says the end goal is to create a gaming ecosystem that includes not only creators but also game developers and publishers.“What we’ve seen is gaming trends are so secular that it takes time for creating the right kind of ecosystem, and creates time for having the right set of partners and creators who are coming on board,” he said. “We are really committed to building the gaming community in India.”