Facebook Gaming was supposed to be the social media giant’s answer to Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch – a place to watch people play video games. Four years after its promising launch, the service has turned into a weird digital ghost town where some of the most-watched accounts aren’t even gamers, some of the top live streams aren’t even live, and much of the true player video views disappeared.
The typical fare on a game streaming site involves a player narrating as they play. But on a recent morning in February, the top spot on Facebook Gaming was dominated by video of the military game Arma 3 presented as footage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Other standout videos include a montage of chiropractic footage and an unmanned digital double-decker plane floating without narration. Sometimes the best live videos show Southeast Asian women selling foot callus removal kits or diet pills with content tags such as “playing Grand Theft Auto V” or “playing League of Legends”. Some videos that claim to be live streamed can be up to 11 hours, looping recorded footage.
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Such content differs greatly from the live streaming of the game featured on Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Seven of the 10 most-watched Facebook gaming accounts at the end of 2021 were responsible for weird or off-topic videos, which can attract more than 50,000 Facebook users at once, according to data from Stream Hatchet, which pulls data directly of the Facebook API. Some were eligible to run ads or receive donations through Facebook. After Bloomberg raised the issue with Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., many suspicious channels were delisted or deleted.
As pre-recorded, commercial or just plain weird video activity takes over – in the last quarter of 2021, it accounted for 42% of hours watched on the top 200 Facebook Gaming channels, according to Stream Hatchet data reviewed by a live analyst – it becomes difficult for serious game streamers to make a name for themselves or build an enthusiastic audience around their work. The number of Facebook Gaming streamers has dwindled since 2021, with high-profile figures like Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang and Corinna Kopf – each with millions of social media followers – defecting to Twitch in recent months.
“We have more and more fake streamers and less and less real streamers,” said Facebook Gaming user Daniel Popa.
The rapid disappearance of Facebook Gaming shows Meta’s challenge in attracting young people and their dynamic communities to its flagship social network, and the limits of its strategy to copy the successful products of its competitors. Overall, Facebook’s daily user count fell for the first time in the fourth quarter, causing the company to lose more than a third of its market value since its earnings report. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rallied his employees around prioritizing video products that can help the company attract the next generation of users. Now, another copycat product — Reels, a competitor to TikTok — is Zuckerberg’s main strategic focus.
Despite the difficulties, Facebook considers its gaming effort a success. “As we zoom out, we see a long-term upward trend in both creator count and viewership on Facebook Gaming,” the company said in a statement. Meta focuses on its “ability to help creators reach audiences who care deeply about their content and communities and are more likely to return and engage with future streams.”
With its launch in 2018, Meta invested heavily in trying to make the gaming platform cool, luring in some of Twitch’s top game streaming stars, such as Wang, with bids reportedly exceeding $1 million in some cases. . Facebook Gaming would be a dedicated hub for gamers to livestream Call of Duty or Rocket League, build audiences, and chat with fans about their favorite game. These creators could make money from their content through programs that allow streamers to receive donations or run ads.
In 2020, Facebook launched its Facebook Gaming mobile app. Months later, when Microsoft Corp. shut down its Mixer game streaming service, Facebook offered them incentives to move their streaming business under their roof. Streamers saw it as a chance to stand out with less competition than on Twitch. Popa, a UK-based video game streamer, says he amassed an impressive 28,000 subscribers playing Euro Truck Simulator in 2020 on Facebook Gaming. When it was live, its viewership hovered around 700 — a stark upgrade from Twitch, where it only drew around 10 or 15 live viewers, he said.
FILE PHOTO: Attendees walk past a painted Twitch logo on the stairs on the opening day of E3, the annual video game expo. Unlike Twitch, Facebook Gaming is much more popular outside of the United States, with many viewers tuning in from Vietnam, Indonesia, and South or Central America.
But it did not last. Unlike Twitch, where his viewers constantly chatted with him in the accompanying chat box, on Facebook most of them were either completely silent or complained that his stream was a nasty surprise in their News Feed.
Last year, Popa’s metrics, and those of several other players who spoke with Bloomberg, dropped precipitously. Popa’s viewers weren’t chatting on his channel because most weren’t actually watching him, he thinks. Facebook had shown her video on newsfeeds of people who might not have searched for her content. It would play automatically as users scrolled. Then, over time, Facebook flipped the switch, promoting its and others’ feeds in a more targeted way.
“One of the unique strengths of Facebook Gaming is our foundation as a social media platform, giving creators the ability to reach audiences who may not be directly connected to them (by following, for example ),” a Facebook Gaming spokesperson said in a statement. Over time, Facebook has gotten better at showcasing streamer content to “unconnected audiences who are more likely to be interested,” the company said. This contributed to “a reduction in their unconnected reach”.
The number of Facebook Gaming streamers has dwindled since 2021, with high-profile figures like Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang and Corinna Kopf – each with millions of social media followers – defecting to Twitch in recent months.
Declining metrics kept gamers in and created a void to fill with off-topic pre-recorded videos. Many artificial channels had or have “partner” or “upper tier” status, which allows them to monetize through Facebook with ads and user donations. Facebook is creating an incentive for looping video and e-commerce channels to flood the platform with content: in order to earn money from streams, users must “stream game content, with the game tagged , for at least 4 hours on 2 of the previous 14 days,” the company says.
Still, the number of hours watched on the service continued to rise. “Reaching the right creators has caused a problem because of fake creators: there’s no doubt about that,” says Indian streamer Sanjeev Kumar, who goes through AKELA Gaming.
A spokesperson for Facebook Gaming said the company moderates the platform with a “mix of proactive detection and reports written by people.” The company pointed to policies that “do not allow non-gaming videos to be incorrectly marked as games,” adding that the company can “automatically identify and demote videos that are tagged as gaming but display non-gaming content.” tied to the game to artificially gain range”. on our platform. They added that it is normal to see a mixture of live videos and “was-lives”. Marking a game without playing it, as e-commerce videos do, can result in exclusion from the money-making program.
Also, unlike Twitch, Facebook Gaming is much more popular outside the United States, with many viewers tuning in from Vietnam, Indonesia, and South or Central America, according to data from StreamsCharts.
A wall of video monitors with real-time video game play is seen at the offices of Twitch Interactive Inc, a social video platform and gaming community owned by Amazon, in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 6, 2017 .
Game live streams appeal to younger Gen Z audiences, as opposed to one-sided television or movies, interactive video which can attract more engaged viewers, who are also more engaged with ads and sponsorships . Advertisers may be hesitant to invest money in content without any way to ensure that audiences are real and paying attention, or that ads are airing on channels operated by live broadcasters.
View inflation is a huge problem for game live streaming ecosystems, although it makes these live streaming platforms more attractive to advertisers. Video game blog Kotaku reported in 2018 and 2019 that viewers of some Twitch live streams were inflated due to a system that embedded them on millions of websites. Live broadcasters were often placed at the very bottom or in a place where viewers could not necessarily see them. In 2020, YouTube Gaming’s most-watched videos were also dominated by scams and autoplay-recorded videos, including those with inappropriate content aimed at children.
As Facebook Gaming struggles to attract, retain and nurture game streamers, some users are giving up. “These days I stream on Twitch,” Popa said. ‘Less headaches.’
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