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Facebook is now the fourth Western tech titan to tackle cloud gaming, and the company’s approach is both surprisingly interesting and unsurprisingly having Apple conflicts. Before digging into exactly what Facebook is doing, let’s review the other titan’s approaches:
- Google Stadia is the closest to the original console model - pay a fee for access and then pay full price for games on top of that subscription. Sadly (at least so far), Stadia has overpromised and underdelivered.
- Amazon Luna (covered in more depth here) is taking a play out of Prime Video’s playbook and launching channels that gamers subscribe to, starting with Luna+ and Ubisoft+. It’s yet to launch.
- Microsoft’s xCloud (which we analysed here) is primarily tucked in as an in-beta feature of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which provides an increasingly great value for lots of content. Cloud gaming is (so far) positioned more as a nice benefit rather than a killer feature or service.
Facebook’s approach is different. According to the company’s blog post, “Facebook Gaming has launched several cloud-streamed games in the Facebook app and on browser - playable instantly, with no downloads required.”
In other words, it’s taking today’s popular free-to-play model, allowing players to demo games via ads without leaving Facebook’s ecosystem, and Facebook is even enabling in-app purchases and in-game ads on full cloud-streamed gameplay. The innovation here is less forcing new business models or disrupting the status quo, but rather making it much easier for consumers to simply jump into what already exists. Given the free-to-play reality and Facebook’s 2 billion user reach, it’s likely going to amass users far easier than the other titans, and Facebook’s advertising prowess should align with what today’s publishers already want (more players + better monetisation).
Of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is interesting, but there are intense technical and execution details, and much of the expansion will begin next year. Plus, even though cloud-playable ads will launch on both Android and iOS, access to full cloud-streamed games via Facebook Gaming is so far only going to launch on Android and the Web. Apple remains a critic of the cloud gaming model, which in this case - where players are literally playing mobile app games that have already been approved + Apple gets paid - doesn’t make sense. I expect the “rules” to continue morphing, but overall am more optimistic than not of this working out in both Facebook’s and publishers’ favours.