Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) introduced an app on Monday that will allow gamers to create and watch video games being played live, a move that will take on industry leader Twitch, owned by Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). It will also place the company into direct competition with Google's YouTube, a division of Alphabet, and Microsoft platform Mixer.
The social media giant originally planned to debut the app later this year, but sped up its development efforts in response to the widespread stay-at-home orders and the large number of consumers sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Facebook has been investing in the app for several years, noting that 700 million of the 2.5 billion users that access its platform each month are already viewing or participating in live gameplay, making it an area of extreme interest for the company.
"Investing in gaming in general has become a priority for us because we see gaming as a form of entertainment that really connects people," said Fidji Simo, chief of the Facebook app. "It's entertainment that's not just a form of passive consumption but entertainment that is interactive and brings people together."
The global games market was already expected to grow to $160 billion in 2020, an increase of more than 7% year over year -- and that was before much of the world was asked to stay home. Expectations have increased in recent months since gaming has one of the few businesses that has flourished during the pandemic, as it's an activity that's perfectly suited to consumers sheltering at home.