Facebook continues to push its way into the gaming space, this time with an exclusive esports deal. ESL, which organizes large esports tournaments for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 players, will bring livestreams of those competitions exclusively to Facebook Live.
The first competition begins today. ESL One Genting Dota 2 runs from January 23 through the 28, with a companion show for Dota fans airing on Facebook Watch. All competitions will be available in both English and Portuguese and streamed with a resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second.
This deal, which builds on last December’s introduction of live streaming on Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games feature, turns Facebook into a more viable Twitch and YouTube competitor when it comes to live gaming content. The social network offers some unique features to bolster the live gaming experience that neither Twitch nor YouTube have, like its ability to cross-post video content across Facebook pages operated by different users.
Cross-posting will let ESL One put live streams of esports competitions on its own pages as well as those of professional players and teams. In a sense, this means Facebook Live offers multiple platforms in one. Fans of certain Dota players may visit their pages before thinking to tune in via ESL-operated platforms.
The setup for live gaming on Facebook looks a lot like Twitch, complete with a chat window on the side. It also includes unique Facebook Live features, like the viewer-posted emojis that hover across the bottom of the screen. Facebook also wants to bring VR to the live esports on its platform, though there are no concrete plans for this yet.
Twitch has led the live streaming gaming space for a while, though YouTube has become a destination for an increasing number of streamers. In the third quarter of 2017, concurrent streams on Twitch jumped 67 percent, according to data from Streamlabs, but this did not correspond to an increase in viewership. While Twitch had around 25,000 concurrent streamers in Q3, Youtube had 8,200. Both exceeded Facebook by a lot, which had just 1,800. Exclusive pacts with esports tournament organizers like ESL might help give Facebook the edge it needs to increase that number.
The new partnership with Facebook Live doesn’t mean ESL will stop streaming live gaming content on other platforms that the company’s made deals with, however. Such platforms include Twitch, YouTube, Yahoo Esports, Hulu, and Twitter. Said ESL senior VP of global media rights and distribution, Nik Adams, according to AdWeek, “We will continue to work with our partners such as Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and others in 2018.” They just won’t get live access to the competitions headed exclusively to Facebook Live.