In the spring of 2018, Facebook Instant games platform opened up their api for developers to access and develop games on their platform. They made a huge splash with massive user base with billions of sessions of game play played. (4.2 to be exact).
With over 200 games available from open, this was another opportunity for game developers to enter and create new revenue streams. Another Blue Ocean. Or was it...
Facebook instant games platform from the outside looks like a very lucrative chance to make an extra buck with your portfolio but it seems there are more hurdles that Facebook needs to tackle to either dethrone what Apple and Google has established with their app store or position the product in a different direction.
This post discusses the 3 potentials and the outstanding issues that Facebook has yet to solve and is at a critical juncture in its products life cycle to provide identity as a platform or potential fade away as another attempt to create a viable platform. Let’s take a look at the following points.
Facebook’s Initial Boost for all new apps:
This is one of the key selling points for developers to flock to this new platform as Facebook promises a 4 to 7 day boost (changes all the time) on any app that gets released on this platform to determine the ‘initial’ metrics of the app and whether this app is inline for another boost to grow the product.
9 months ago this boost can easily push your user base to the 100k whereas now, you’ll be lucky to even see 15k as more and more apps saturate the platform and you’re left with player curated from tier 3 countries.
Either or 15k users is a lot of users and Facebook is willing to give any indie developer these types of users is a dream come true. Since Apple and Google do diddly squat for you and take 30% for all your hard work.
Unfortunately, the dynamic this has created is that the first to market players have capitalized on the new platform ( and so should they as they took a chance on the new platform).
But what happens to the new developers who flock to this platform. Without a proper curation system, the current system only allows for the new incoming users to click on the top displayed games which conveniently the first party developers outside of your anomalies aka OMG.
"Is an Algorithm based Instant Game game page the right approach for a socially triggered platform?"
Wechat's Small Games utilizes a unique way for niche growth by displaying games that your friends are playing versus the same games that appear when you view the instant games app.
They split up their game page to provide a featured app (for those publisher with deeper pockets), another section for what your weChat friends are playing, and a few more section below that emphasis, mobile top grossing app, this allows for users to view the different types of games based on how the entire market is reacting, how your players are reacting and how publishers are pushing a product. These are very different lever players can consume to see the diversity of the platform.
Unfortunately, Facebook instant games currently only provides 6 pieces of information for each game that is displayed in a grid, and it is very hard for a player to choose between games to play, personally, I end up looking and choosing the game based on the user base and the actual icon.
Friends that are playing
Number of Active users
AI based Publishing
Facebook has taken a unique approach to their open platform as i seems that they lean on AI to do all the heavy lifting to scale up their business. Everything from, business registration, the initial boost program, to games that are inline for a second or third boost for product growth, most of the time it’s an algorithm that are making the decisions on what goes and doesn’t which at times leaves developers frustrated as a simple business registration can cause some aches and pains as they can potentially be rejected with real vague feedback.
That being said, the algorithm did allow the platform to scale up their business as 1000’s of apps started flooding into the market, something a team of humans approving games wouldn't have been able to accomplish. Unfortunately since the human eye isn't monitoring the approval process, majority of the games are of low quality games just looking for the initial boost and the high organics to cash in on these users.
Games like Mary Running and Stick War are a few examples of bad actors trying to exploit the space and cash in on these free users.
The Concept of Instant
Facebook Instant games is just what its marketed it as, Instant. As HTML5 and Canvas technology evolves the platform effectively removing the hurdle of the long download experience players have when downloading apps from the traditional App Store. Depending on your bandwidth or WIFI strength, this can potentially be a daunting experience. But the question still remains, is something instant even necessary? Does an instant experience enrich the game experience?
Technology has really advance today where a lot of companies look to cash in on the microwave generation we live today. This is because it has become exponentially easier to produce a product that would have costed thousands of dollars a couple of generations ago. What was once difficult to develop is something that can be developed over night and the users these days, don’t care too much about the quality of the content but just new content in general.
The unfortunate dynamic this creates is an unloyal community that constantly craves for more, regardless of the hard work that the developers have created for the users to consume. The instant concept has created a sense of user self entitlement that makes it hard for developers to monetize or create a meaningful experience for players to stick around and play.
This directly affects both the retention rate and monetization rate. Meaning, developers are required to think differently when developing instant game as the traditional mobile app approach doesn’t work on this space since Monetization and Retention are very low on these platform.
I will go into depth with regards to business strategy in my next post.
Overall, the Facebook Instant Games Platform is not your traditional gaming platform but at the moment can be considered a lite app platform where players come to play games without the intent of commitment. How Facebook shapes this platform will be very interesting to see, since engaging in the hyper social users is a rather daunting task.