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Facebook Throws its Hat into the eSports Ring

The possibilities of livestreaming are continuing to expand, and it seems that every week a new deal or partnership is in the cards. Platforms are competing with each other for market shares and everything seems up for grabs. As livestreaming expands from gaming to other activities, the whole idea of gaming as entertainment is being revolutionized and along with it, the perceived international value and reputation of eSports in general.

Not only that, but the activity itself is becoming more and more mainstream, as familiar names step up to the plate and begin to get in on the eSports live streaming party. Let’s take a look at the most recent developments.

Facebook’s New Strategy

The most familiar name of all and the most recent exciting deal involves Facebook. Yes, Facebook has teamed up with Blizzard to livestream its PC games through Facebook Live. We are being offered yet another way to integrate our online lives with our offline ones. The partnership will bring bestselling games like Hearthstone and Diablo more easily into a broader eSports arena. Well, if not more easily, then definitely more visibly. Could this be the launch pad for a more populist approach to eSports, as UK’S The Guardian has commented? Although there’s no ETA for the new Facebook Live-Blizzard collaboration, it’s only a matter of time, according to Blizzard. It’s exciting, but for those who would prefer that Facebook doesn’t get in everywhere, as it were, it’s yet another major player in an already busy arena.

The Bottom Line

Let’s take a look at the possibilities for this new deal between Facebook and Blizzard. Facebook already carries 71.1% of overall US marketing revenue, according to recent figures. The $36bn expected by 2018 may suggest that this new eSports venture could push Facebook’s presence up significantly. Gamoloco’s Nicolas Cerrato sees us at the “beginning of the eSports boom”, so who knows where Facebook could go with this. The industry as a whole is growing, with impressive figures coming out of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, where gaming giants Sony, Ubisoft, Microsoft and Nintendo present their latest offerings. In fact, before these guys even started their presentations, a reported 925k viewers had already watched streamed video game content from the conference. Incredible – it certainly puts the market Facebook want a piece of into perspective.

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If it’s Fun, you can Stream it…

Diverse communities are already being brought together by the rise of eSports streaming, and a dream team can be put together for any kind of competition. Even better, you can take other teams on. Team Liquid, the legendary international eSports team recently announced partnering up with online poker giant PokerStars to stream poker games on Twitch. It’s interesting that online poker is making forays into eSports, and could be the perfect match for all sorts of platforms. By 2018, the US revenue from online gaming like poker is expected to reach $56.05b. On the quirkier edges of eSports is ESPN’s new venture. A combination of gaming and physical, real world sports, drone racing is going to start on TV in August. The very first US National Drone Racing Championships will take place in New York, with competitors wearing VR headsets and attempting a combination of race and obstacle course to win.

Competitors, Line up!

What is true is that Facebook will be squaring up to, the current leading platform for eSport streaming. The top games watched via Twitch are League of Legends and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, only one of which is a Blizzard offering. However, 49.53m hours of Hearthstone were watched in May 2016, making Twitch the go-to platform for this activity. Considering Overwatch will be the pilot for Facebook’s new venture, itself pretty popular already, Twitch risks being knocked off the top spot for video game streaming. Lagging behind is YouTube. Though no-one can beat this platform for online video viewing worldwide, it is failing to compete in any meaningful way with Twitch. However, there is some indication that YouTube is developing its own streaming service for video games. Watch this space.

Meet your new Teammates

Apart from the trend of strictly MMOG video game streaming, there’s a whole world of emerging eSports ventures out there. It seems as if just about anything can be shown live, and even developed for specific platforms. The electronic car racing series, Formula E, has joined forces with Microsoft and Turn 10 to bring the virtual world of racing game Forza 6, well, into a larger virtual world. A tournament where players race Forza 6 Formula E cars for a €15k prize started in March of this year. Another recent trend involves established football clubs signing players or teams to compete in FIFA Interactive World cup tournaments, with West Ham’s Sean Allen the most recent, along with a whole three-person team at Valencia.

It’s only a matter of time before another exciting deal for eSports is announced, and the streaming of anything fun and exciting becomes the norm. With new technology’s ability to bring communities together, we could be seeing the end of the primacy of live sport. Imagine a world in which the Superbowl is one among several must-watch sporting events of the year. Unthinkable, or just hasn’t happened yet?

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Image source:, Photographer: Joe Brady

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