Since its initial launch in June 2018, Facebook Gaming has quickly asserted itself as one of the biggest gaming and streaming platforms on the internet. With a focus on esports and community building, the platform has seen significant growth, especially in Southeast Asia, and seems primed for more.
Speaking to Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia, Michael Rose, Facebook’s Head of Gaming Creators for Asia-Pacific, shared that over 700 million people out of Facebook’s 2.4 billion active monthly users regularly engage with gaming content on the platform.
Of that figure, about 380 million were playing games on Facebook Gaming, with 200 million watching them play on videos or livestreams, and 230 million more engaging with Facebook groups on gaming.
The staggering number of people on Facebook has no doubt helped its gaming platform grow quickly and arguably even outpace other platforms, despite its later entry to the game streaming scene.
For comparison, around 3.8 million streamers broadcasted on Twitch in February this year, with the number of monthly users being pegged at over 140 million, according to data from Twitch Tracker.
With Facebook being the most prevalent social media platform in Southeast Asia — which is also one of the biggest and fastest-growing gaming markets in the world — it’s no surprise that Facebook Gaming has seen considerable growth in the region over the years.
Even as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world over the past year, that growth seems to show no signs of stopping.
Facebook Gaming reported a 218 per cent growth in viewership for gaming video in Indonesia, by far the platform’s fastest growing market in Southeast Asia. Their audiences in other major markets in the region saw significant upticks as well, with viewership up in Malaysia (87 per cent), Singapore (44 per cent), and the Philippines (41 per cent).
“We’ve seen some pretty huge growth in the region overall. Across all the countries within the region, we now have over a thousand partner creators across nine major countries,” Rose said.
“Of course, [the coronavirus pandemic] is a very devastating situation for everybody, but I think gaming has actually given a kind of release for a lot of people to do something, to get away from all the madness out there.”
Facebook Gaming is confident that its Southeast Asian audience will only continue to grow, partly because it is still in the process of sinking its roots deeper in the region. Other countries in Southeast Asia, like Laos and Myanmar, still only have budding gaming communities on the platform, for the most part.
“A lot of people love games but maybe just haven’t had the chance to find them on Facebook yet. Of course, there are always challenges like data access. So as we solve those things and as they naturally progress, we see more and more people coming in to watch gaming content on Facebook,” added Rose.
Creators ‘driving the growth’
Of the factors that has been driving Facebook Gaming’s growth, Rose cited the platform’s commitment to esports and community building as two of the most important ones.
Facebook Gaming has been actively working and partnering with major game publishers in the region, such as Tencent, Moonton, and Riot Games. Those partnerships entail both tournaments for those publishers’ esports titles, as well as regular streams of content for more casual audiences.
The list of most popular games on Facebook Gaming for Southeast Asia, which includes PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Arena of Valor, and Free Fire, among others, also reflects the state of video games in the region.
The aforementioned titles, all played on mobile, are especially popular in Southeast Asia for being easily accessible games that almost anyone can play, stream, and be a fan of.
To further tap into that, Facebook Gaming has also started running their own tournaments in partnership with various game developers and publishers.
The platform has even allowed its community to participate in that effort as well, with the addition of a “Tournaments” feature. This allows anyone to create and manage their own tournament, regardless of whether they’re an esports enterprise or just a really passionate fan.
“It’s a really powerful tool that we’ve seen on the platform. Hopefully, it can support not just big esports events, but also small-scale creator and fan events as well as local esports scenes,” said Rose. “We’re really committed to esports content of all types across the platform.”
With all that said, Facebook Gaming wouldn’t have much to stand on if not for its community.
“Our creators are the one thing that is really driving the growth for Facebook Gaming. We’re seeing a lot of creators joining the platform organically, and we’ve had partner creators that we work with directly as well. They’re really what’s helping to build us up,” Rose said.
Building up that community has been a priority for the platform, especially in Southeast Asia, where arguably every country has a very strong passion for gaming and a really strong sense of community.
To help further, Facebook Gaming has been running a number of events that aimed at fostering inclusion for different segments of its audience.
For example, the platform celebrated International Women’s Day by gathering 21 of its top female creators, as well as male allies, to share their experiences on Facebook Gaming and build a sense of community for women streaming on the platform.
The platform has also hosted Ramadan campaigns in Malaysia and Indonesia as well as other Muslim countries across the world, which included tournaments and streaming marathons in between times of prayer.
“We’re really focused on diversity and inclusion on the platform. We make sure that it’s a safe place, especially for women, to play on the platform. We’ve also been looking at how can we help enable creators with disabilities and differently-abled creators on our platform, even in our recruiting practices,” said Rose.
“We want to build a strong sense of ‘I’m part of Facebook Gaming’.”
Such advocacy drives are especially important in a region like Southeast Asia, where a stigma on gaming in general remains prevalent in certain areas.
Even within the gaming community itself, negative perceptions, such as how only a certain kind of people can play games and enjoy them, remain.
“We made a conscious decision very early on to be a safe platform for people, we wanted to be inclusive of everyone in the platform,” said Rose.
After all, it is difficult to build and grow a community when other people are feeling left out or outright shunned.
For Facebook Gaming to continue to grow in Southeast Asia, where communities across different creeds and varying races coexist, everyone will have to be welcome.
As it should be, given that the platform is an extension of a social media network that aims to connect people all around the world.
“We’re building around playing on Facebook, watching content, while also connecting with your friends and other fans,” said Rose. “The mission for Facebook Gaming is around building the world’s gaming community.”