OK, yes, Facebook has already tried its hand — and succeeded, at least in the past — at video games. “Farmville,” anyone?
What Facebook announced on Thursday, though, is something deeper than what it tried in the past: an “all-new PC gaming platform.” Which, uh, what’s that?
If you ask us, it sounds a lot like the enormously popular Steam — a PC gaming service run by Valve Software that boasts nearly 200 million active users.
Steam is, by far, the largest video game platform in the world. It’s much bigger than the combined audience of PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
A Facebook rep confirmed to us that the company is making a standalone application (like Steam) to this end. Unfortunately, that’s where hard details end: There’s no release date, no announced games or publisher partnerships, and no confirmation of what the app will do.
By comparison, Steam is much more than just a game store; it also acts as a messaging platform, as a service for selling in-game items to other players, and a variety of other things.
Steam is also, more or less, totally unchallenged.
Game publisher EA (of the “Madden NFL” series, among other things) has a competitor in its Origins service, albeit one that’s not very big. And Ubisoft, publisher of the “Assassin’s Creed” series, has its UPlay service, which is also notoriously small.
And then there’s the Apple App Store, which only competes with Steam on Apple’s platforms — Steam dominates primarily on PC, where Apple’s store doesn’t exist.
Facebook’s made previous moves into gaming with products you already use. Facebook Live, the live video service on Facebook, is a major competitor to Amazon’s Twitch game streaming service. And yes, of course, there are games you can play on Facebook (although you probably don’t). And that’s to say nothing of the game-focused Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The company is clearly setting its sights on the bigger picture of video games as a medium. This is another step in that direction, but there’s still a long way to go before Facebook convinces gamers to give it a shot.