While the tournament feature was in the works for a while, Facebook decided to release it early to help people cope better while in isolation because of the coronavirus, said Mina Abouseif, the head engineer behind Facebook Gaming tournaments, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Originally designed as a tool to support live gaming events and tournaments, the company worked these past few weeks to shift Facebook Gaming tournaments to meet a digital need to help people stay connected through friendly competition with their friends, family and communities, he said.
“Our mission for Facebook gaming is to build the world’s gaming community and organized gameplay has always been a big part of gaming, regardless of levels of competition,” Abouseif said. “Whether it’s someone getting together with family and friends or whether it’s a creator of a tournament for viewers or supporters, or whether it’s an esports organization, this is a big part of gaming.”
Abouseif used to play a lot of Electronic Arts’ FIFA soccer games with his friends. They would go to each other’s houses and play for hours. But now they can’t do that, so Abouseif wants to find a way for the friends to connect digitally.
“We noticed that there were many tournament organizers that were using Facebook events and Facebook pages and Facebook groups to try to get the word out,” Abouseif said. “They were running tournaments, but the landscape was was very fragmented. A tournament organizer would need to use several tools, whether it’s setting up a bracket or whether it’s communicating with participants.”
He added, “What we set out to do was just make it easier for those tournament organizers to streamline their creation, their moderation and celebration of tournaments as part of their gaming communities. And initially, our focus was very much on these in-person events. We actually had several tests with college campuses. Then, with Covid-19, it was really apparent those tournament organizers are shifting online.”
Anyone can organize or join a tournament, whether a casual competition among friends, a creator looking to play with their chat, or a global esports competition. Brackets, leaderboards, and everything else happens virtually.
With tournaments being a part of Facebook Gaming, creators and broadcasters can host fan tournaments while streaming the action live. You can create, play, and watch the competitive action in one spot. With fundraising tools built into gaming videos, creators can also organize tournaments to support charitable causes.
Facebook is making the early access tournaments available to everyone now, and it will gather feedback and continue to build it together with the community. Facebook Gaming and Oculus recently said they were joining the #PlayApartTogether campaign, where game companies support the World Health Organization by raising awareness about the dangers of the coronavirus.
Facebook wants to make it easy to learn what is happening in a match. It also wants to make it easy to facilitate a tournament, or find out where a tournament is at a given point in time, how to celebrate winners, and how to follow conversations around the tournaments.
Right now, the tool requires the tournament organizer participants to actually coordinate matches in a game like Call of Duty: Warzone. Facebook can’t automate the matchmaking yet, but it is working on that. It also relies on the players and organizers to report the results of the match. But it does provide a place where people can gather to view the results or view an actual livestream of the match.
“During this time of isolation, we really wanted to accelerate our plans and try to launch globally, much faster than we originally anticipated,” he said. “The goal is to empower these gaming communities to coordinate and have these tournaments engage these communities.”