The launch of Facebook's HTML5-based Messenger game platform Instant Games was one that prompted much discussion in the mobile games industry.
Just how big can Instant Games be for mobile gaming? And is this HTML5 finally coming of age?
Only time will tell, but early statistics bode well for the platform.
Spil Games' Endless Lake bagged an award from Facebook, and it was revealed that the score-based runner saw 12 million players and 33 million games played in its first three weeks on Instant Games.
As such, PocketGamer.biz reached out to Spil CEO Tung Nguyen-Khac to learn more about working with the burgeoning platform.
PocketGamer.biz: When did you first hear about Facebook's Instant Games platform, and what appealed to you about it?
Tung Nguyen-Khac: We met with Facebook at Gamescom in August and we were asked to submit games.
We looked at a few, but Facebook engineers responded really positively to Endless Lake so that was the one we went with for the launch.
They liked it because it fits the Instant Games platform - it was already a HTML5 game, it suits short gaming sessions and it’s competitive, making it good to play with friends.
We were already monitoring the success of games played through messaging apps in Asia and had seen how big they are.
We were already monitoring the success of games played through messaging apps in Asia.Tung Nguyen-Khac
WeChat in China and Kakao in South Korea, particularly, have capitalised on the fact that more and more people spend most of their time in a single app.
When we started talking with Facebook, it just seemed like perfect timing to get into the messaging environment.
How easy is it to develop a title for Instant Games? How much contact did you have with Facebook throughout the process?
The hard part is coming up with a great game that will work within Instant Games.
We had a head start because Endless Lake had already been developed in HTML5 (the technology behind Instant Games) and it really seemed like it would suit a gaming within a messaging platform.
However, because Endless Lake was to be part of the launch of Instant Games, Facebook wanted us to tweak a few minor elements of the game to make sure it worked perfectly within its platform.
The result was that we worked closely with Facebook on the fine-tuning.
How have players reacted to Endless Lake since its launch on Facebook Instant Games?
The reaction has been amazing. There are some iconic brands up there on Instant Games (including Space Invaders and Pac-Man) but Endless Lake has been holding its own.
It has consistently been in the top two and frequently hits the number one spot in terms of number of players and games played.
And, after three weeks of the Instant Games launch, the game has notched 12 million unique players and 33 million game plays. And now Facebook has announced they’ve awarded it as Best of Instant Games.
We’re also seeing some awesome user engagement on the Endless Lake Facebook page.
- “I’m quitting chess and becoming a professional Endless Lake player”
- “Facebook Messenger has this game called Endless Lake - needless to say, I’m never going to sleep again”
- “I only kiss people who have a good score in Endless Lake”.
Why do you think the game is the such a good fit for the platform?
It’s the perfect casual game. It’s very competitive and so it’s good to challenge your friends.
It’s obvious how you play, so it’s easy to pick up, but it’s hard to master, which keeps you coming back.
The analytics are telling us that Instant Games players like really short gaming sessions.Tung Nguyen-Khac
The analytics are telling us that Instant Games players like really short gaming sessions and the fact that you can put down the game but keep coming back to it really makes it a good fit for the platform.
Has the Instant Games version driven more players to try the game on iOS and Android?
Yes, definitely. We only published Endless Lake on iOS and Android at the same time as it launched on Instant Games (prior to that it was available on the web).
We did this mainly to give people a choice about how they played the game but we did no active marketing through other channels to drive installs for the app store versions.
However, because people are finding the app store versions through search, we have seen more than 100,000 installs in the first three weeks.
Would you recommend the Instant Games platform to other developers, despite the current lack of monetisation?
It really depends. You have to understand HTML5 and how the Instant Games platform works.
Not all games will do well on this platform. If you look at the numbers playing the 17 games made available at launch, you will see a huge difference between the best and the worst.
This is really down to whether the games make it practical to have a really short session length.
Remember, when people play through messenger, they are also chatting to their friends and engaging with social media. They are putting the games aside and coming back to them all the time.
If your game works with short gaming sessions and has a strong competitive element so it makes people want to beat their friends’ scores, then definitely, Instant Games would be a platform worth exploring.
It’s a great way to raise the profile of your games and it already looks like it’s going to be a hugely significant platform in terms of audience numbers.
With Facebook’s record of building audiences and then monetising, I think we can expect the best from Instant Games.Tung Nguyen-Khac
Facebook hasn’t told us much yet about how monetisation will work. But with Facebook’s record of building audiences and then monetising, I think we can expect the best from Instant Games.
What impact do you see Facebook Instant Games having on the mobile games industry?
Early signs are the significant numbers of people are playing games within their social space.
Few publishers see the reach we’ve achieved so quickly in the first few weeks. It absolutely suits the pick up and play gamer and so we think we will see a significant growth of casual games in Instant Games.
But playing within Messenger opens up new opportunities for new types of multiplayer games and for sharing and recommending games.
These will be major drivers in the games industry over the next year or so. We will have to see how Facebook supports developers as we go into phase two, and how are developers going to make money.
Will you be working with the platform again beyond Endless Lake?
Absolutely. We already have new games in preparation for publishing on Instant Games in the new year - watch this space.