Facebook Gaming Is Overrun With Strange Videos and Scams Leave a comment

Some gamers, lured by a fresh start, are giving up and returning to Twitch

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 an eerie 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 large portion of the real gamers’ video views have disappeared.

The typical fare on a game-streaming site involves a player narrating as they play. But on a recent February morning, the No. 1 spot on Facebook Gaming was dominated by video from the military game Arma 3 billed as footage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Other top videos included a montage of chiropractic footage and an unmanned digital double-decker airplane, floating with no narration. Sometimes, the top live videos show southeast Asian women selling foot callus removal kits or diet pills with content tags like “playing Grand Theft Auto V” or “playing League of Legends.” Some videos that purport to be live run for up to 11 hours, looping recorded footage.

Such content differs starkly from the game livestreaming showcased on Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Seven of the top 10 most-watched Facebook Gaming accounts in late 2021 were responsible for the strange or off-topic videos, which can draw over 50,000 Facebook users at once, according to data from Stream Hatchet, which draws data directly from Facebook’s API. Some were eligible to run ads or receive donations through Facebook. After Bloomberg raised the issue with Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., many of the suspicious channels were delisted or removed. 

As the prerecorded, commerce, or simply bizarre video activity takes over — in the last quarter of 2021, it accounted for 42% of the hours watched on Facebook Gaming’s 200 top channels, according to data from Stream Hatchet reviewed by a livestream 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 declined since 2021, with top personalities like Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang and Corinna Kopf—each with millions of social media followers—defecting to Twitch  in the last few months. 

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

The fast fade of Facebook Gaming shows Meta’s challenge in driving young people and their vibrant communities to its flagship social network, and the limitations of its strategy to copy competitors’ successful products. 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 its earnings report. Meta Chief Executive Officer 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 the number of 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.”

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