Facebook is this week officially launching a cloud-based streaming service for its gaming platform, after months of beta testing in select geographic locations. Facebook Gaming’s take on the popular trend won’t seek to de-throne competition like xCloud or Stadia — at least not right now.
The formula for Facebook Gaming’s cloud gaming service will at this point be familiar to many: access your favorite games wherever you are, no download required, on any device you please. Unlike its competitors, though, Facebook Gaming isn’t going for the prestige. Instead the social media company is sticking to its roots with accessible games with high replayability factors.
Jason Rubin, VP of Play at Facebook, works to manage players’ expectations from the get-go. Rubin makes it clear that Facebook’s aspirations here are to stay in its lane and offer something entirely different than its closest competition. “Cloud gaming announcements are prone to hype,” he writes, “so I’m going to speak openly from the outset.”
In a market already saturated with somewhat disappointing cloud-based gaming systems, Facebook’s candidly different approach could prove to be its best asset.
Access from anywhere — The goal with all cloud-based gaming services is ease of access, but thus far the main offerings in the market have struggled with fulfilling that mission. A big part of the disappointment has been streaming quality — it turns out you need a pretty strong cell data connection to stream console-quality games to your phone or tablet.
Facebook's solution is simple: don’t offer console-quality games on your streaming service. Much like the rest of Facebook Gaming, the new cloud service isn’t looking to target serious gamers. It’s offering instead titles with less prestige like PGA Tour Golf Shootout and Asphalt Legends 9. The lower graphics quality and overall smaller game sizes should make it much easier to stream on Facebook Gaming with something like a 4G internet connection.
Well, almost anywhere — There is, of course, a caveat. The cloud-based service won’t be available for iOS users at launch, so only Android users and desktop players will be able to take advantage of the Facebook Gaming cloud. Facebook says it will attempt to create a workaround on iOS in the future, but for now it’s not clear whether or not that will eventually happen.
Rubin took a moment out of his announcement to disparage Apple’s treatment of gaming companies. “While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear,” he writes. “Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource.”
This might be the most prominent similarity between Facebook Gaming’s cloud service and its competitors’: Apple’s gatekeeping policies are keeping the services from maximizing their potential on iOS. It seems Apple would rather hoard profits than allow its users to play video games.
Facebook Gaming’s cloud service is available today in California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C, Virginia, and West Virginia. Facebook is planning to expand its cloud-based offerings in 2021 as its beta progresses.