With over a billion people on Facebook, the social network has become the ultimate go-to destination for killing time, and that includes playing video games. Facebook reports that across web and mobile, an average of 445 million people play Facebook-connected games every month, and over 250 million people play directly on the platform itself.
Aside from investing billions of dollars in game developers for its network, Facebook made a number of moves in 2016 that indicate a more active gaming presence from here on out—at least, that’s the idea. In addition to playing games from its website or logging in from the game’s app, Facebook introduced Instant Games this past November that are playable with friends on Messenger and via a user’s News Feed. This new way to play offers quick entertainment for those who don’t want to download or install another app, but want challenges such as leaderboards and turn-based games.
Facebook has also introduced live game streaming, allowing users to broadcast live gameplay from PC, mobile and console games directly to the social network. While the company has a long way to go before it rivals Twitch, Facebook’s partnership with Activision creates tremendous opportunities for brands venturing into eSports to reach the network’s one billion users. Activision acquired Major League Gaming (MLG) last year, and is enjoying a successful partnership with Blizzard through first-person shooter, Overwatch. Additionally, the rights to broadcast the collegiate Heroes of the Dorm tournament (featuring Heroes of the Storm) switched from ESPN to Facebook this year.
“ESports is an exciting space and continues to be a growing priority for us,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships said during its 2016 Digital Content NewFronts presentation. “With over 1.6 billion people on the platform and a growing suite of VOD and livestreaming products that partners can use to increase engagement, Facebook is uniquely positioned to help eSports fans connect around exciting moments and great eSports content.”
“Hardcore” titles may one day be more prevalent on Facebook, but for now, a majority of games being played on are casual titles like match-3 puzzles, time management and slots, all designed for quick and easy play sessions. Nearly 150 million active users are playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook each month and 11 million play the game daily, if that’s any indication of popularity.
Of course, it would be foolish not to mention the Oculus Rift, Facebook’s huge virtual reality investment that launched last year in March (its Oculus Touch controllers launched in October). Its launch wasn’t what you’d call record-breaking, shipping a mere 250,000 units compared to PlayStation VR at 750,000 units in 2016. Combined with legal battles with ZeniMax, 2017 could be a rough year for Facebook’s VR dreams. However, Facebook’s support for 360-degree videos indicates a growing emphasis on VR content for the Oculus-powered mobile viewer, the Samsung Gear VR.
Someday, the Oculus Rift may transform how Facebook users work and play—but until then, there’s always Candy Crush.