Facebook is making a big push in the world of gaming
Classic games like "Pac-Man," "Space Invaders," and "Galaga" are coming to Facebook.
On Tuesday, the social network announced Instant Games, its most aggressive push into the world of gaming since "FarmVille" peaked in popularity on Facebook years ago.
Game makers are now able to make lightweight, HTML5 versions of their titles that are playable within Messenger and Facebook's News Feed. Facebook has already signed on a handful of prominent game studios to participate in the closed beta, including Konami and Zynga's "Words with Friends."
Opening the floodgates to more games is partly a response to the high engagement Facebook saw with basketball and soccer games it's already tested in the Messenger app, according to the company's director of games partnerships, Leo Olebe.
"People have put games inside of messaging platforms before," he said in a recent interview with Business Insider. "Facebook has not. And it's really exciting for us to do it in a way that can engage people on the Messenger platform."
A new gaming tab in Messenger will let people invite their friends to compete in score-based games and through leaderboards. A dedicated Instant Games tab will also exist on Facebook's website, although the company expects people to discover games mainly through recommendations from their friends in the News Feed.
Instant Games are available in 30 countries and work in Facebook's iPhone and Android apps. The same games that are playable in Messenger are playable in the News Feed and the main Facebook app.
Facebook's 'awakening' to games
Facebook hasn't been thought of as a destination for gaming in a long time. Instant Games represents "a resurgence and an awakening to the opportunity games" for the company, according to Olebe.
Facebook has made two recent pushes into becoming a destination for gamers that have yet to show significant results. One of those pushes came in June when Facebook challenged Amazon's Twitch by letting people live stream gameplay from Blizzard titles like "Hearthstone" and "Overwatch."
Olebe wouldn't say how many people have streamed games on Facebook or the total number of hours streamed, and the company hasn't partnered with other game makers beyond Blizzard. 1.7 million people broadcasted game streams every month on Twitch last year.
Facebook is also attempting to take on Valve's Steam with its own storefront for Windows PCs called Gameroom. Olebe announced Gameroom earlier this month. He declined to share any early usage numbers but said that developers are excited about selling their games through the platform.
For now, gaming represents only 15% of the time spent on Facebook's website, Olebe said. And while Instant Games aren't able to monetize with in-app purchases yet, they could one day contribute to the $2.5 billion business that games reaped on Facebook in 2015.
Facebook has largely missed the transition of causal gaming from desktop PCs to mobile phones in recent years, but it hopes to regain lost ground with Instant Games.
"The total number of people in the world who now identify themselves as gamers has grown exponentially," Olebe said. "We're totally hip to that idea and we want to make it as easy as possible to engage with the games that they love."
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