Facebook's Instant Games platform is now open to all developers, announced the social network at its F8 developer conference last Wednesday. The platform, which was launched in 2016, allows users to easily discover, share, and play games without having to install new apps.
This HTML5 cross-platform gaming experience on Messenger and Facebook News Feed is available for both mobile and web. Prior to this, the platform was in closed beta, with 15 developer partners producing nearly 200 games and providing feedback to Facebook as they made updates and changes to the platform.
Some of the notable updates made to date include:
- Turn-based gaming (Launched May 2017)
- Tests of interstitial and rewarded video ads with select game developers (October 2017)
- Live-streaming of game play and video chat feature (Launched December 2017)
Along with their announcement that the Instant Games platform would be open to all, the company announced another round of updates that would give game developers more flexibility. These included:
- Ads API for interstitial ads
- Support for in-app purchases on Android and web
- Game Switch API for cross-promoting games across the platform or deep-linking to other properties outside the Facebook / Messenger platforms
- Matchmaking feature that creates a new messenger group for players with similar skills
What THE Instant Games updates mean for game developers
Gaming often gets a bad rap for having a 'desocializing' effect. Facebook's Instant Games aims to make gaming a less solitary, and more social experience. For the player who is already a Messenger user, zero effort is needed to start playing a new game. Casual gamers who use games as a way to connect with loved ones and strengthen their relationships through friendly competition now have access to a wider range of playing options than ever before. And that's good news for the game companies.
1. Instant Games could improve organic growth as User Acquisition costs skyrocket.
As user acquisition costs continue to skyrocket for gaming companies, Instant Games could be the answer to greater organic growth. With the new ability for cross-promotion with other games and the ability to include deep links to a game company's own platforms, there are more ways to reach players and grab their attention through tailored recommendations. Leaderboards and a ranking algorithm that surfaces games based on users' recent play and interests will also provide a more customized and engaging game experience for players.
2. Higher shareability leads to stronger social signals, boosting a game's popularity organically.
Because it is completely integrated within a platform used by a billion people every day, Instant Games creates experiences that are easily shared even while playing. With the tap of a button, a player can live stream her game play to the world without leaving the game screen. Friends can invite other friends to join them in a game at the same time they are chatting about the weekend's dinner plans. With one click, users can share high scores, leaderboard rankings, and new features unlocked. All of these social signals are more powerful in attracting new players than dozens of ads, because they come from your best friend or even your mother.
3. Potential players can now try out a lighter / free version of a game with zero effort and commitment.
One of the best sales and marketing tactics is the "escalation of commitment". Users are more likely to commit to a bigger action if the first thing they do doesn't cost them much. Game companies are familiar with this tactic, offering free or / light versions of a game before prompting for in-app purchases or a full purchase. Zynga, for example, has a strategy of "putting the games where people are", instead of forcing them into another platform. This is made easier than ever with Instant Games.
4. The native social experience could lead to high loyalty and improve player retention.
Unlike a game played against the computer, social games have a much more sticky effect. Deciding not to play the game is no longer a solitary decision. Players are motivated to play not only to pass the time or to be entertained, but for the social rewards they reap from the interaction and competition.
While all of these benefits are great news for game developers, on the flip side, the opening up of the Instant Games platform also means more competitiveness among game developers. To stay ahead, game companies looking to establish a strong presence on Instant Games need to:
- Have an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of social media platforms compared to other types of gaming platforms; and
- Continuously monitor and track conversations that are unfolding about their games on social media.