Can Facebook Live Take Down Twitch?

Plenty of companies want a piece of Twitch's pie -- rivals such as Hitbox (who?), Dailymotion (ha) and even YouTube (okay) have attempted to take the video game livestreaming giant head-on, but they all seem to lack Twitch's deep roster of popular streamers and massive gaming-centric viewer base. So how do you contend with such a behemoth? Meet people where they already are: Facebook.

Blizzard's Overwatch is one of several popular games you'll get to stream directly to Facebook.

Blizzard's Overwatch is one of several popular games you'll get to stream directly to Facebook.

Facebook Live video is exploding, and the platform is slowly becoming a new home for folks who want to stream their favorite games. Major publishers already see its potential, as Blizzard will soon let you stream it's PC games directly to Facebook without any fancy hardware or software. Whether you're playing World of Warcraft, Hearthstone or the new mega-hit Overwatch, you'll be able to show off your skills to your Facebook buddies in a few clicks.

Blizzard has already hosted several major events on Facebook Live, including tournaments for Heroes of the Storm and an Overwatch launch party. The popular publisher isn't alone, either -- major gaming news outlets such as Kotaku and Polygon have experimented with streaming live gameplay and talk shows directly to Facebook. Heck, we had our most-viewed video game livestream ever when using the massive social media site.

MORE: 15 Must-Watch Twitch Channels

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that Twitch is synonymous with game-related live streams, boasting 100 million monthly users who tune into the platform's million-plus broadcasters. The Amazon-owned platform hosts just about any type of gaming content you can imagine, from League of Legends competitions to live broadcasts from major shows like E3 and Comic-Con. The video service has branched out as of late, allowing users to stream non-gaming content such as music, cooking and even old episodes of Bob Ross' painting show.

As impressive as 100 million users is, however, it's a blip compared to Facebook's community of over one billion members. Perhaps more importantly, those users watch over 100 million hours of video per day, according to an earnings call from January. Sure, that number might be boosted by the fact that Facebook videos auto-play, but it's huge nonetheless. There are surely plenty of folks who check Twitch every morning, but based on these stats, I'd wager that even more people start their day on Facebook -- and stay there.

Twitch does an excellent job curating its bevy of gaming livestreams.

Twitch does an excellent job curating its bevy of gaming livestreams.

Facebook certainly has the user base to take on Twitch, but it can learn a thing or two from the platform's laser-focus on its rabid gaming-centric community. Twitch fans are fiercely loyal, going as far as paying monthly subscriptions to their favorite broadcasters in exchange for exclusive items and more opportunities to interact directly with some of the most well-known internet personalities around. These users practically speak a language all their own, filling Twitch chat rooms with silly emoticons based on popular figures and in-jokes within the gaming world.

There's also the issue of curation. Fire up Twitch, and you'll see a hand-picked mix of streams that run the gamut from eSports tournaments to someone trying to beat Dark Souls with one hand. Facebook Live videos, on the other hand, seem to just appear in the middle of your news feed, sandwiched between engagement photos, cat videos and your dad's political rants. If Facebook is serious about gaming, it should launch a dedicated hub for cutting out the clutter and getting right to your favorite streamers.

So, will Facebook Live lure away Twitch's most popular broadcasters and their dedicated fans? Probably not. But with over one billion people paying attention, it has the potential to expose a massive mainstream audience to the world of watching other people playing video games. That alone would be a huge victory.

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Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.