Facebook wants to host games like it does ads and articles.
A lot of people spend a lot of time playing video games on Facebook — roughly 15 percent of all time spent on Facebook.com is by users playing games, the company says.
Surprisingly, though, Facebook’s mobile app, where the bulk of Facebook’s users spend the bulk of their time, doesn’t offer on-Facebook games. Facebook just pushes people to the App Store or Google Play store to download games instead.
That’s about to change, the company announced Tuesday. Facebook is rolling out a product called Instant Games, which lets users play mobile games, like Pac-Man and Words with Friends, inside the core Facebook App and Facebook Messenger.
This whole host-content-inside-of-Facebook strategy isn’t new for the social giant. Facebook has tried to do this with web articles and advertising, too. The point is to keep people inside of Facebook’s app and services as long as possible, and that’s easier when Facebook hosts all of the content people like to consume on their phone.
Why click and leave Facebook to read a story from Recode if you can click and load the story right inside the app? The same theory applies to games.
The most obvious benefit to hosting your game on Facebook is reach. The social network has 1.8 billion users, and Messenger has more than a billion users, as well. Hosting your game on Facebook could do wonders for user growth, especially since it doesn’t require people to download an app. (People don’t download apps anymore, remember?)
But hosting your game on Facebook will also mean sacrificing potential revenue. Instant Games will be free, so no one has to pay to download or play these games. Instant Games won’t offer in-game ads or in-game purchases at launch, either.
Put simply: Any developer putting their game inside of Facebook won’t make any money from those users. And they may even lose money if people who used to play the game on the developer’s standalone app, where there probably are ads or in-app purchases, chooses to play on Facebook instead.
The obvious solution is for Facebook to offer in-game ads and split revenue with developers like it does with Instant Articles publishers. The question is probably more about when rather than if Facebook will roll out something like that. Until then, though, developers may be wary of pushing their users to Facebook, where they can’t make money.
Facebook is starting with a small number of games, which will all be free at launch. Other developers can apply to host their games on Facebook. Both Facebook’s core app and Messenger will also include a game-specific tab where users can find Instant Games.