Gaming Is Coming Back to Facebook With Instant Games Developer Program Launch

Facebook is giving games another shot: The social network officially opened up its Instant Games platform to all developers Wednesday, allowing them to build and monetize games for the Facebook news feed and Facebook Messenger. This comes after Facebook first launched the platform in closed beta in late 2016.

Facebook’s Instant Games are essentially HTML-based game experiences, meaning that users don’t need to download and install any apps, and don’t need Flash or any other third-party plugins to run them. Users can find these games on Messenger via the game controller icon; Facebook also introduced a dedicated games bookmark for players to revisit games that they have previously played.

Developers are able to monetize these games with Facebook ads, including video interstitials. In addition, Facebook is also testing in-app purchases for Instant Games. Advertising in particular seems to be working for developers of instant games, with game studio FRVR banking seven figures for ads running on the “Basketball FRVR” instant game, which has been played more than 4.2 billion times.

“As a game developer, it’s rare that you have an opportunity to reach more than 1 billion people the first day your game goes live,” said FRVR founder Chris Benjaminsen in a statement. “We knew an investment in Facebook’s Instant Games would pay off — and it certainly has.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook has dabbled in gaming on its platform. A decade ago, Facebook let game developers like Zynga distribute games including “Farmville” on its platform. “Farmville” quickly became a hit, bringing in hundreds of millions via in-game purchases. However, these Flash-based games didn’t run on mobile devices, and gaming on Facebook took a deep hit as its user base transitioned from desktop to mobile.

What’s more, many users were turned off by the spammy nature of many Facebook games, which flooded the news feed with updates and pestered players to invite their friends. With Instant Games, Facebook now looks to replace this type of viral marketing with a more traditional approach, offering developers dedicated ad units to drive audiences to their games.

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