Facebook recently offered up some big numbers for the new Instant Games platform within its Messenger app.
In the 90 days preceding April 18th 2017, users had played games more than 1.5 billion times on the platform.
Messenger itself also has 1.2 billion monthly active users.
Facebook Director of Global Games Partnerships Leo Olebe recently discussed with PocketGamer.biz a number of upcoming new features for Instant Games, such as “rich gameplay”, Game Bots and new discovery features.
But for its vast audience, Facebook has yet to integrate monetisation to the platform, with no date of such a key addition in sight.
One publisher that doesn’t seem to mind however is Spil Games, which released the charming Endless Lake during the Instant Games launch, and has followed that up with the release of Tomb Runner on the platform.
Endless Lake proved a big success in terms of games played, with 12 million people playing the title in the three weeks after launch. The publisher claims it continues to consistently be one of the most played games on Messenger.
“We think it has the potential to be a massively significant gaming platform,” Spil Games CEO Tung Nguyen-Khac tells PocketGamer.biz.
“We’d been monitoring the Asian market where we’d seen a huge uptake in gaming within the messaging environment.
“We know that gaming and messaging work differently there, but in the Western markets, there is clearly an audience who wants to play in groups and share their experiences from within their existing messenger apps.”
A "serious commercial platform" in-waiting
Despite the lack of monetisation, Instant Games has a number of big backers: From Spil itself to Zynga, King and the well-funded US startup Blackstorm Labs.
We’re expecting Facebook to monetise soon, maybe as soon as in the next couple of months.Tung Nguyen-Khac
And according to a bullish Nguyen-Khac, if developers remain patient, they won't have to wait much longer.
“We’re expecting Facebook to monetise soon, maybe as soon as in the next couple of months," he claims. "At that point, Instant Games can become a serious commercial platform.”
And it’s not just in-app purchases, mobile advertising by big brands could be lucrative too. Nguyen-Khac highlights mobile advertising research from eMarketer, which estimates that mobile display surpassed desktop display ad-spend in 2015 in the US for the first time.
And perhaps significantly, Facebook took 33.5% of mobile display ad spend in the US last year, with Google pulling in 10% of mobile display ad spend.
“Mobile games in general offer amazing engagement levels anytime, anywhere,” says Nguyen-Khac.
“There aren’t many other forms of entertainment that keep people so involved for so long. The mobile phone is a constant companion and its use just continues to grow.
“But big brand advertisers have not yet recognised the power of this engagement. Reach and detailed audience targeting has tended to be what drives their campaigns. This is where Facebook has been pre-eminent. It has billions of users: Messenger itself has 1.2 billion monthly active users.
“What makes Instant Games exciting is that it’s a perfect marriage of Facebook’s reach and mobile gaming’s engagement. We think it’s going to be a huge proposition for advertisers.”
Get in quick
For now though, Nguyen-Khac says it’s important to have a presence where gamers choose to play, whether that’s on the web, in an app or within Messenger.
He says with Instant Games, Spil is capturing people who want gaming to be integral to their social experience.
He feels that while mobile gaming is currently dominated by the app ecosystem, HTML5 games – which Instant Games is based on – have potential going forward, with Facebook’s platform bringing with it a huge user base.
We think this is going to attract big brands to the gaming environment.Tung Nguyen-Khac
Nguyen-Khac believes that if you’re serious about mobile gaming, you have to get in on the platform now.
“We have a big advantage with HTML5 games already running on our web portals in that we have analytics that show us how people are playing the games and which are most popular,” he says. “We could see that Tomb Runner is highly suited to Instant Games.
“It was also a game where we have been developing much higher quality 3D graphics. We felt it was an opportunity to show that you didn’t have to sacrifice quality to play on Instant Games. Tomb Runner’s 3D graphics are as good as those on any native game.
“This process has given us a huge head start over anyone who is only just thinking about developing games for the platform now.”
Nguyen-Khac reiterates that monetisation will happen on Instant Games in the next few months, and will mark a new opportunity for both game developers and advertisers.
“We think this is going to attract big brands to the gaming environment and represent a massive opportunity for our games,” he states.
“We are already seeing increased interest in gaming from big brands.”