Facebook is giving users the chance to pay gamers.
Facebook is trying to attract a new type of content creator: Professional gamers — the people who stream video of themselves playing video games online so others can watch.
Facebook is launching an official partner program for some gamers; those who sign on will get deals in which the company will pay them to use Facebook’s livestreaming technology to broadcast to other Facebook users. Paying people to use Facebook Live is a strategy the company has used with more traditional publishers and celebrities — like the New York Times or comedian Kevin Hart — in an effort to push livestreaming into the mainstream. (Facebook has in the past paid Vox Media, Recode’s parent company, to create live videos.)
But Facebook isn’t just paying these gamers. It will also give them another way to make money: Via donations from people who watch their livestream, often referred to in the industry as “tipping.” That means that if you’re watching a gamer you really enjoy, you’ll now be able to send them actual money through Facebook as a token of your appreciation. (Twitter’s Periscope, for example, also offers tipping.)
The idea is to build up Facebook’s reputation as a place for both gamers and game enthusiasts. The world of online gaming is bigger than most people realize. Estimates put the total number of people who watch others play video games at 500 million worldwide. YouTube has a massive collection of online gaming videos, and Twitch, which is almost exclusively video game streams, sold to Amazon in 2014 for more than $1 billion.
Facebook wants a slice of that action, and getting the gamers — a.k.a. the content — onto Facebook is the first step.
“We want creators to be able to be successful on Facebook, and a big part of being successful means being able to make a living,” said Leo Olebe, Facebook’s global director of gaming partnerships, in an interview.
This is not Facebook’s first foray into gaming. People have been streaming games to Facebook for the past 18 months, and the company recently announced a deal with the Electronic Sports League to stream some of ESL’s professional competitions inside Facebook’s video tab, Watch.
Some of the logistics of the company’s new gamer program are still being worked out. Facebook plans to take a share of donations that fans send gamers, for example, but claims it hasn’t settled on a formal split yet. Facebook plans to launch the program over the weekend with dozens of gamers, and hopes to expand it quickly.
Facebook doesn’t want to pay gamers forever, though. It’s using these paid deals to get things rolling, but eventually it wants to move toward a business model in which someone besides Facebook — likely advertisers — is paying the bills.
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