When it comes to streaming video games, most in the Western world immediately think of Twitch. If you're playing in South Korea or China, you'll probably use a different service. But for everywhere else, Twitch is pretty much unrivalled in its fan base and capacity.
But there is one service that has a lot more users and can host video just as effectively: Facebook.
Facebook integration has typically been restricted to adding people to your friends list, and not much else. But in a press release this morning, the developer has announced it will be integrating Facebook Live natively into its games.
"As an example, Blizzard is in the process of incorporating Facebook’s Live API in order to create its own “Go Live” streaming functionality for its games. When this functionality is implemented, players will for the first time be able to livestream their Blizzard-gaming sessions directly to their Facebook timelines, and friends will be able to subscribe and be notified when new streams are available."
The technology was successfully trialled for the launch of Overwatch last week, as well as the Heroes of the Dorm collegiate tournament for their free-to-play MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.
Blizzard also talked up the advertising opportunities available, pointing out that Facebook Live allowed Overwatch to be broadcast to an audience of 1.65 billion on Facebook and a further 400 million users on Instagram.
It's not often that game companies advertise the marketing potential of their native video, but it's the most sensible argument here. One of Twitch's biggest drawcards is the size of its audience. If that audience suddenly isn't the biggest dog on the block, and users have the potential to market through a social media platform that they already use, the equation shifts.
There's a lot more required before Facebook Live becomes a viable alternative to Twitch, however. For one, it's unlikely that many popular streamers and influencers would want, or be able to, migrate their audience to Facebook Live. Facebook Live hasn't had the time to implement more of the advanced dashboard or social management features available in Twitch, and you can only stream for 90 minutes at a time — not particularly helpful for an event or a livestreaming marathon.
But the thought of Facebook Live as a major streaming platform isn't far-fetched in the slightest. It already works well for users on a casual basis, and Facebook has the infrastructure and the platform to offer a credible alternative. The question is one of ambition: does Facebook Live want to rival Twitch as a service for full-time streamers, or are they happy targeting casual users?