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Facebook is getting serious about gaming.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported the social networking service would launch Facebook Gaming — a new mobile app dedicated to livestreaming video game content — via the Google Play store on April 20. (Yes, tomorrow.) The app will be free to download, devoid of ads for now, and only compatible with Android. An iOS rollout is expected soon, pending Apple’s approval.
Facebook did not immediately return Mashable’s request for comment.
“It’s literally just a few clicks and then live, you’re a streamer.”
A competitor to sites like Twitch and YouTube, Facebook Gaming aims to capitalize on a growing community of amateur streamers by simplifying the user experience and harnessing the accessibility of mobile games. While Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook’s existing gaming presence are predominantly PC focused, the mobile app’s “Go Live” feature promises to speed up sharing.
“There are a lot of people who listen to music and say, ‘I can imagine myself being a musician,’” Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president for gaming, told The New York Times. “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.”
Creators will be able to share livestreams to their personal Facebook pages — a tool particularly handy amidst social distancing measures — as well as play “casual” games included in the app. Per The New York Times, the increase in gaming popularity due to coronavirus motivated Facebook to accelerate the app’s launch, initially planned for June. Over the past 18 months, Facebook Gaming has been tested in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
To keep the app ad-free, Facebook allows users to give donations (aka “stars”) to streamers they like. Facebook will then take a portion of the money, though they have yet to say how much.
Though consoles (particularly, the Nintendo Switch) have seen a boom in recent weeks, Facebook maintains their focus on mobile gaming will pay off.
“We don’t want to be the background window in a Chrome tab while someone is doing their homework or doing something else,” Sharma said to The New York times. “With mobile, if you have the app open and you’re using the app, it’s in the foreground. You can’t do anything else on your mobile phone, and that is extremely powerful.”