Date
4 December 2016
Facebook’s Instant Games features 17 titles including arcade classics such as Pac-Man. The games will debut in 30 countries. Photo: WSJ
Facebook’s Instant Games features 17 titles including arcade classics such as Pac-Man. The games will debut in 30 countries. Photo: WSJ

Facebook bolsters gaming foothold

Facebook Inc. wants you to spend more time in its ecosystem.

The social networking giant has launched a new way to play games on its messaging app, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Instant Games will start in 30 countries with 17 titles, including arcade classics such as Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.’s Pac-Man and new games such as Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Shuffle Cats Mini.

The games, available on iOS and Android devices as well as the web, will be free.

Facebook is trying to reignite its presence in gaming, while transforming Messenger into a hub for shopping, news and entertainment.

With its messaging app, Facebook is partly playing catch-up to Asian messaging services such as Tencent Corp.’s WeChat, which act as sticky one-stop shops for entertainment and online services like payments.

Gaming is an important tool for engaging Facebook’s more than 1.79 billion users and attracting advertisers, Leo Olebe, Facebook’s director of global games partnerships, said in an interview.

Videogame industry revenue is expected to rise 8.5 percent this year to US$99.57 billion worldwide, according to research firm Newzoo BV.

In August, Facebook struck a partnership with Unity Technologies Inc. to make it easier for developers to bring games to its website. Earlier this month, it launched Gameroom, a free desktop app for games.

Facebook generates about US$45 million in monthly revenue from gaming, down from a peak of $65 million in December 2011, according to investment bank Piper Jaffray Cos.

Still, 15 percent of the time people spend on Facebook’s website involves games, Olebe said.

Instant Games will try to build on that interest by baking games straight into the news feed and Messenger, so people won’t have to launch separate apps or pages to play.

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