After Microsoft’s livestreaming platform Mixer shut down on July 23, its site began redirecting users to Facebook Gaming, encouraging former Mixer content creators to make the jump to its one-time rival.
Many resisted, considering Facebook “uncool.”
The tech behemoth is aware of its reputation. “We are taking that approach of introducing ourselves politely, showing up … and just respectfully delivering results,” Vivek Sharma, head of Facebook Gaming, told CNN Business.
With Mixer out of the picture, the landscape for livestreaming games remains dominated by Amazon’s Twitch, which hit over 5 billion hours watched for the quarter ending in June, followed by Google’s YouTube with 1.5 billion hours watched. Facebook Gaming comes in third, substantially behind the others with 822 million hours watched, according to a report from livestreaming software company Streamlabs, which is owned by Logitech.
Hours watched is one of the most common metrics for measuring a livestreaming platform’s popularity and success, indicating to advertisers and onlookers just how many millions of people are on the platform with money to spend on content creators through subscriptions and donations.
In the quarter ending in June, before it shut down, Mixer finished in last place with 106 million hours watched, according to Streamlabs. Mixer said in a June blog post that the platform had failed to scale quickly enough.
This was despite Mixer’s splashy multi-million dollar deals with streamers like Ninja and Shroud. The platform made headlines for signing content creators to exclusive multi-year deals offering millions of dollars over the past year.
Analysts and competitors alike have reflected on what they’ve learned about the strategy of throwing money to attract the most popular creators. Mixer’s fate proved that fans don’t always follow a creator onto a new platform.
“We don’t really go and chase after big names because we don’t think this is a purely content business,” said Sharma. “If you do think it’s a purely content business you end up becoming sorely disappointed, because often the numbers don’t come.”
Acquiring talent can still be an effective strategy for other platforms like YouTube, but building a community is also important, said Doron Nir, CEO of livestreaming services provider StreamElements.
“I just don’t think that dumping $20 million or $30 million [on talent] is a silver bullet,” he said. “There are no silver bullets.”
When reached for comment, Twitch directed CNN Business to a tweet in June where it wished Mixer streamers well and said “Twitch is here to help.” It also referred CNN Business to its press page where it states it has 17.5 million average daily visitors, but doesn’t break out monthly user data.
Facebook Gaming said more than 700 million of its 2.4 billion active users “engage with” gaming content on its platform each month. That’s the same statistic it gave CNN Business last November and Sharma acknowledges that the number has not changed, although engagement and hours watched in the most recent quarter are up 200% over last year.
“We feel very proud that our number is large but we’re not just empty calories on our way to success, we’re not just adding more random eyeballs. We’re actually deepening the engagement,” said Sharma.
For the first time, Facebook is breaking down what those 700 million plus people are doing: More than 380 million of them play games such as “Farmville” each month, and 200 million watch gaming livestreams. Some 230 million participate in gaming groups. Some of these people are doing more than one activity so they may be counted multiple times.
About 120 to 130 game creators initially rejected overtures from Facebook Gaming but eventually moved after seeing others successfully do so. Sharma said, although he declined to share how many Mixer streamers moved to Facebook.
Much of Facebook Gaming’s strength is on mobile and in regions outside of the US where Twitch hasn’t planted its flag, said Sharma. On Friday, the Facebook Gaming mobile app launched on iOS, after Apple repeatedly rejected a version of the app that would contain games. The app was released on Android in April.
One reason for the delay: A version of Facebook’s app contained games that violated Apple’s App Store guideline stating that an app can’t look too much like Apple’s own store. Apple has been under antitrust regulatory scrutiny in the US and in Europe for its App Store practices. The company did not respond for comment.
After Mixer shut down, Twitch streamer Ninja, the biggest star on the platform, surprised his viewers with a YouTube livestream before later returning to Twitch as well. He has not announced an exclusive contract with either platform.
“We welcome any content from him,” YouTube’s global head of gaming Ryan Wyatt wrote in an email, adding that “engagement is up across the board” during the pandemic. YouTube Gaming has 200 million daily active users, and did not have monthly data to share. The overall YouTube platform has 2 billion logged in users every month.