September 25, 2022
Facebook gaming is over with weird videos and scams

Facebook Gaming was supposed to be the social media giant’s answer to Inc.’s Twitch – a place for people to play video games. Four years after its promising launch, the service has turned into a terrifying 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 a slew of real gamers’ videos. Views have disappeared. Typical fare on a game-streaming site includes a player narrating while playing. But on a recent February morning, the No. 1 spot on Facebook Gaming was dominated by video of military game Arma 3, billed as footage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Other top videos include a montage of chiropractic footage and an unmanned digital double-decker airplane floating around without a narration. Occasionally, top live videos feature 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 play live for up to 11 hours loop the recorded footage.

This type of content is quite different from the game livestreaming shown on Twitch and YouTube Gaming. According to Stream Hatchet data, seven of the top 10 most-viewed Facebook gaming accounts at the end of 2021 were responsible for strange or off-topic videos that could attract more than 50,000 Facebook users at once, Which pulls data directly from Facebook’s API. Some were eligible to run ads or receive donations through Facebook. After Bloomberg took up the issue with Facebook parent meta, several suspicious channels were taken down or removed.

In the last quarter of 2021, 42 percent of the hours watched on Facebook Gaming’s 200 top channels — either pre-recorded, in the form of commerce, or simply bizarre video activity — according to data from Stream Hatchet reviewed by a Livestream analyst. This was accounted for – it makes it 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 been on the decline since 2021, with top celebrities like Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang and Corinna Koff—who each have millions of social media followers—blaming Twitch over the past few months.

“We have more and more fake streamers and less real streamers,” said Facebook Gaming user Daniel Popa.

The rapid decline of Facebook Gaming illustrates the limits of Meta’s challenge in moving young people and their vibrant communities to its flagship social network and its strategy to mimic the successful products of competitors. Facebook overall shrank in daily users for the first time in the fourth quarter, causing the company to lose more than a third of its market value since reporting its earnings. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rallied his employees to prioritize 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 long-term growth in both creators and viewership on Facebook Gaming,” the company said in a statement. Meta is focusing 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 2018 launch, Meta invested heavily in trying to make the gaming platform cool, wooing Twitch’s top game-streaming stars, like Wang, with deals worth more than $1 million in some cases. Facebook Gaming will be a dedicated hub for gamers to livestream Call of Duty or Rocket League, build audiences and chat with fans about their favorite games. Those creators can make money from their content through programs that let streamers receive donations or run ads.

In 2020, Facebook launched its Facebook Gaming mobile app. Months later, when Microsoft shut down its game livestreaming service Mixer, Facebook offered them incentives to move their streaming business under their own roof. Streamers see this as an opportunity to stand out with less competition than they face on Twitch. UK-based video game streamer Popa says he amassed an impressive 28,000 followers playing Euro Truck Simulator in 2020 on Facebook Gaming. When he was live, his viewership was around 700 — a big upgrade from Twitch, where he only attracted 10 or 15 live viewers, he said.

But it didn’t work out. Unlike Twitch, where her viewers talked with her in a constant chatbox, on Facebook, most of them were completely silent, complaining that her stream was an unwanted surprise in their newsfeed.

Last year, Popa’s metrics, and several other gamers who spoke with Bloomberg, declined sharply. He believes that Popa’s viewers were not chatting in his channel because most of the people were not watching him. Facebook seeded his video into the newsfeeds of people who may not have asked for his content. It will autoplay as users scroll. Then, over time, Facebook flipped the switch, promoting its and others’ streams in a more targeted way.

A Facebook Gaming spokesperson said in a statement, “One of Facebook Gaming’s unique strengths is our foundation as a social media platform, which gives creators the ability to reach audiences that are not directly connected to them (eg. Over time, Facebook became better able to showcase streamers’ content to “unaffiliated audiences who are more likely to be interested,” the company said. This contributed to “their lack of unaffiliated reach.” Gave.

The drop in metrics gave gamers less incentive to stay, and created a vacuum to be filled with off-topic pre-recorded videos. Many artificial channels had “Partner” or “Level Up” status, which allowed them to monetize through Facebook with ads and donations from users. Facebook creates an incentive to fill the platform with content for looped video and e-commerce channels: To be eligible to earn money from the stream, users must “play gaming content with the game tag in as little as 2 hours.” Will have to stream for at least 4 hours. In the last 14 days,” says the company.

Nevertheless, the number of hours seen on the service continued to increase. “Accessing the right creators caused problems because of fake creators: no doubt about it,” says Sanjeev Kumar, an India streamer who goes by AKELA Gaming.

A Facebook Gaming spokesperson said the company moderates the platform with “a mix of active detection and reporting made by people.” The company pointed to policies that “don’t allow inappropriate tagging of non-gaming videos as gaming,” adding that the company may “automatically identify and degrade videos that are tagged as games.” but are artificially displaying non-gameplay content in order to gain access “on our platform.” He added that it is normal to see a mix of live video and “was-lives”. Without actually playing a game, he said Tagging, as do e-commerce videos, can result in being excluded from the money-making program.

Additionally, unlike Twitch, Facebook Gaming is much more popular outside the US, with many viewers tuning in from Vietnam, Indonesia and South or Central America, according to data from Stream Charts.

Game live-streamers tend to attract a younger, Gen Z audience, unlike one-way television or movies, interactive videos that can attract a more engaged audience, which are also more engaged with commercials and sponsorships. Advertisers may be wary of putting money into content, with no way to ensure that the audience is real, attentive human beings, or that the ads are running on channels run by live streamers.

View inflation is a huge problem for the game livestreaming ecosystem – although it does make these livestreaming platforms more attractive to advertisers. Video game blog Kotaku reported in 2018 and 2019 that viewers of some Twitch livestreams were inflated because of a scheme that embedded them in millions of websites. Livestreamers were often placed at the bottom or viewers could not see what they needed. In 2020, YouTube Gaming’s most-viewed videos were also dominated by scandals and autoplaying, recorded videos – including inappropriate content directed at children.

As Facebook Gaming struggles to attract, retain and nurture game streamers, some users are giving up. “These days, I’m streaming on Twitch,” Popa said. “Less headache.”

© 2022 Bloomberg LP

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