Instant speculation abounds with FB Messenger’s Instant Games

November 6, 2016

Subscription media service The Information broke a story on Friday about Facebook Messenger allegedly planning to integrate HTML5 games into their platform, enabling users to play “Instant Games” directly in their chat feed. 

Assuming the reports are accurate, I find this development quite interesting for a number of reasons.

First, this represents further confirmation that the rumors of HTML5’s demise in gaming have been greatly exaggerated (I’ve long argued as such for the reasons I cite here and here).

Secondly, this feature will undoubtedly boost engagement, thus extending the share of time consumers spend on the FB Messenger platform. Combined with Instagram, Oculus, and Facebook itself, imagine how many hours per week Facebook will capture from consumers on one of its properties.

Additionally, the monetization opportunities should be plentiful. Facebook could enrich its targeted advertising profiles with deeper knowledge on users habits. FB could also grab a slice of revenue from in-game purchases or even playable HTML5 ads like those in Neko Atsume. Could Instant Games serve as a backdoor to an FB equivalent of an App Store?

Finally, I could imagine how Instant Games could enable Messenger to strengthen its position in the few markets where it is not the leading messaging app. Although I suspect FB Messenger will not dethrone WeChat in China, countries like South Korea (Kakao), Japan, Taiwan, Thailand (all three, Line) may all come back in play. I’ll be curious to watch how Facebook’s Messenger team selects its games for this service, and in particular whether they tailor their game selection based on market vs. pursuing a U.S.-centric content strategy for instance.

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posted in technology by mark bivens

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  • Kai

    This is really interesting. I think the real potential here lies in the ability to create an online multiplayer gaming hub. As of now, I feel that the multiplayer mobile games are still very new, and haven’t matured into a strong market. Either they are turn based (clash of clans, boom beach etc.) or require enough of a learning curve that turns players off (Hearthstone). Furthermore they require the user to log into their system, create an account, have your friends do the same thing, and then start playing. No one wants to do that. In fact very few people wanted to do the Game Center application that apple offered (which I think they killed?), and that’s because mobile gamers are casual players looking to kill some time. No one wants to spend the time signing up and creating an account for something no one is even on (Similar problem with Google+). If these applications were implemented through facebook messenger, than you could circumvent all those hurdles and immediately start playing with your friends. Most people you know, or have just met, have facebook messenger, so now creating a multiplayer pictionary game with friends (or any other party game), creating fantasy sports leagues (it would be so much easier to create leagues as everyone would already have an account), online gambling (legal issues aside), simple games to compete over high scores amongst your different circles (college friends, work friends, highschool friends etc.), and other casual to more time intensive games would all be within its scope. Then, as you say, I think you could absolutely create an facebook messenger app store that holds thousands of games.

    But, I think those first few games have to have an enormous addictive impact, otherwise I fear that first impression would lead to users being turned off and not giving another game a second chance, with the whole service becoming a nuisance within the app than an addition.

  • excellent observation, i think you may be right.
    the irony is that a few years back the gaming platforms tried to integrate chat (remember when Gree acquired eBuddy), whereas now it’s shifting to the other way around.

  • Kai

    I completely forgot about that. It will be interesting to see whether this way around will actually work. On a similar note Facebook just announced

    “Facebook is rolling out a new feature for its Messenger app — a public group chat forum functionality called Messenger Rooms. It’s currently available on Android devices in Australia and Canada, with no word yet on when it will roll out to the rest of the world. Messenger Rooms features chats that are centered around any topic, and anyone can join them — even if you aren’t Facebook friends.”

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts around this feature.

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