Facebook may have once been the platform to beat when it came to casual gaming, but that was a while ago. The service is still used to sync data and share achievements by plenty of games, but the space is at the moment dominated by downloadable off-platform titles. The social networking giant is out to change all that. Today it announced a new feature for playing games directly in both the news feed and Facebook Messenger, no download required. The initial list of available titles draws heavily on old arcade favorites, with names like Pac –Man, Galaga and Space Invaders headlining, as well as some more modern games like Words With Friends. The feature is currently in closed beta. From the press release:
“Messenger just got way more fun — or competitive — depending on how you look at it, with the ability to play games right in your messaging conversations. So when you’re looking for a reason to connect with your best friend who lives on the other side of the world, you can kick off a round of Words with Friends: Frenzy; or try again to beat your roommate at PAC-MAN just once; and of course, you always have time to challenge your brother to EverWing, SPACE INVADERS, TRACK & FIELD 100M, Galaga, and many other Instant Games. This gaming experience will first roll out to 30 countries, and is available for newer iOS and Android operating systems.”
Game streaming has been floating around the space for quite a while now, but it makes sense that it might begin to worm its way into things with smaller, simpler games rather than the AAA powerhouses people are always pushing. As Google is always showing us with interactive doodles, there’s really no reason to download simple games when most of us have a plenty powerful internet connection, and this sort of thing is a logical next step.
My take is that I don’t really see the platform taking off for games, per se. The occasional Pac-Man session aside, there’s not really any value add for being able to play games inside of a chat window when so many other gaming options are so easily available. I could easily imagine the news feed being a big new platform for game-like experiences, however, in all realms from commerce to journalism and memes. Imagine interactive graphs alongside news stories, memes that play out like little games so as to mask extremist points of views, and other fun things. While history tells us not everyone will welcome the news feed coming to life, it’s easy to see some utility here.