How Facebook is capturing the hearts and minds of gamers and streamers

Facebook was out in force with a big presence at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game trade show in Los Angeles. E3 usually has about a billion impressions up for grabs as global tune into the events, and as a social media platform, Facebook wants its share of those impressions.

The company had live broadcasts from the booth, and I participated in one of them (the last segment on this link). Facebook says that more than 700 million people tun into gaming groups, watch gaming videos, or play games on Facebook every month. And during the thick of E3 itself, Facebook said on June 11 that 18 million people were talking about E3 and the games announced there more than 65 million times. 41% of the people talking about the show were women.

At E3, I met with Leo Olebe, global director of games partnerships at Facebook, and Franco De Cesare, director of the console and online gaming at Facebook. We talked about everything from Facebook’s E3 activities to how to deal with toxic gamers.

They talked about rolling out in March a dedicated Facebook Gaming tab for people to find all of their favorite gaming content in one place, personalized for them. And Facebook is investing heavily in its gaming creator programs (for people like livestreamers or professional gamers) so that they can earn a living from livestreaming games on Facebook.

Last year, the company announced its Level Up program for aspiring gaming creators to build their livestreaming communities on Facebook, and it is now available in more than 40 countries. More than 50 of partnered Facebook Gaming creators have come from the Level Up program. And one-third of the Level Up creators say the program was the first experience they had with livestreaming.

Meanwhile, Facebook also announced that playable ads are now available on the Audience Network for rewarded video and interstitial placements along with new gaming monetization features for advertisers. Lastly, the company continued to support women in gaming at E3, and it announced two new Global Gaming Citizens.

Together with The Game Awards at E3 Coliseum, Facebook drew attention to Vanessa Gill of Social Cipher and Damon Packwood of Gameheads. Social Cipher is a story-driven video game that gives children with autism a safe, fun, and accessible space to apply social skills. And Gameheads, based in Oakland, is a youth non-profit training low-income and first-generation students ages 15–24 in video game design and development to prepare them for careers in the entertainment and tech industries. (A previous Global Gaming Citizen, Lual Mayen, launched a Kickstarter campaign for his game about peace, Salaam).

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Leo Olebe: In March we released the game tab. That’s important, because it’s the first time we’ve collected a lot of the different parts that we’ve been building from a gaming product standpoint over the years: Instant Games, the ability to play gaming video, the ability to watch roots content. That’s very big. Then we have creators here on stage again.

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We announced two new Global Gaming Citizens just yesterday, at the Coliseum. We were on stage with Geoff and we brought back Sadia Bashir, one of last year’s Global Gaming Citizens. Then we introduced a young woman named Vanessa Gill. Vanessa has Asperger’s syndrome. She was undiagnosed for a long time, and went on to get a neuroscience degree. She created a development studio called Social Cipher. They’re building a game to help autistic kids learn how to process emotion and interact better with the world around them.

The other we announced yesterday was Damon Packwood. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Damon’s program, Gameheads out of Oakland. They work with low-income and minority youth in Oakland, teaching them coding, level design, all this stuff. He has a big partnership network with probably 200 different developers who come in every weekend and teach programs and help kids learn what the game industry is all about. They’re building amazing things. That’s been really exciting.

We even had a Women in Gaming breakfast yesterday, where we talked about allyship. We brought in several hundred women and men to have this conversation. That’s been a big part of what our E3 experience has been, just the continual push to fight toxicity, drive inclusion, and improve diversity in the game industry. Those are all big initiatives for us as well.

On the gaming side of things, we talked a bit about the tab. At F8 we introduced some new experiences inside of groups, where gamers can start chatting with each other both before and after gameplay to get together. It’s one thing after another that we’re working on to try and build the world’s gaming community. It’s been quite a journey.

We’re talking about some new stats with our Level Up program. We had originally announced our Level Up program as part of our Facebook Gaming Creators. I think last year at some point. It’s been growing over time. Now we’re in more than 40 countries. Probably one of the coolest things about the adventure we’re on is that—I believe about 30 percent of people that are streaming games to Facebook as part of the Level Up program have never streamed games before. It’s this idea of, is it possible to broaden the market? How does that tie into this overall narrative of, everyone’s a gamer? I think that’s the theme of the day. We’ve believed everyone is a gamer for quite some time.

That’s been good to see. They’ve been great. They’re streaming all sorts of games, all the games you would expect, and then streaming to new audiences and new countries, a really diverse population around the world. It’s more along these lines of different things we can do on the product and engineering side to improve the ways gamers can connect to their communities and the games they love.

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