Starting today, Facebook is adding an exclusive new partnership to its Facebook Live video streaming platform, which pits it right up against Twitch and Google’s YouTube Gaming. Agreeing to a deal with Germany’s ESL One e-sports tournament organizer, Facebook will be the exclusive home of live streams of Dota 2 and CS:GO competitions run by ESL One. The first among them is the ESL One Genting Dota 2 contest kicking off today, which forms part of the game’s Major/Minor system instituted by Valve last summer.
Two of the more interesting aspects of this deal are that ESL One will make use of Facebook’s cross-posting feature, thus distributing streams across the Facebook pages of pro teams and players, and the promise of offering streams in VR. Cross-posting is a unique hook that Twitch and YouTube don’t really have, and it could serve to drive new viewers to Facebook’s streams, depending on how many followers the most notable players already have. As to VR, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has already stated the company’s goal of bringing a billion people into VR.
It was in March of last year that Facebook expanded Facebook Live streaming from mobile to the desktop, and game streams were a natural and obvious focus point for the exploitation of that service. But that was the amateur ranks, whereas Facebook has now secured an exclusive deal with one of the world’s most prominent e-sport event organizers, which clearly signals an intent to encroach upon the territory of Twitch, mainly, but also YouTube Gaming.
Facebook’s initial ESL One Genting streams have been stable, maxing out at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, and they haven’t exhibited any technical issues so far. As with Twitch, each stream has a sidebar for live comments, though most of them at the moment seem to be attempts by users to hide the sidebar. When the stream isn’t in full screen mode, thumbs-up and face emoji float across the bottom of it.
Beyond the challenge of moderating the traditionally unruly gaming crowd, Facebook will have to try to convince those same people that it can be considered a legitimate destination for witnessing live game streams. The exclusive partnership that’s making its debut today is one step toward that goal.