There are a lot of things that people do outside of Facebook, but Facebook continues to incorporate more of those things into Facebook — like watching videos, shopping, reading articles and now playing video games.
On Tuesday Facebook debuted a way for people to play arcade-style games by themselves or against friends within the social network’s news feed or its Messenger chat service. The free-for-now Instant Games, which are built using HTML5 and can be played in Facebook’s and Facebook Messenger’s mobile apps or on its sites, appear to be the gaming equivalent to Facebook’s fast-loading, proprietary Instant Articles format.
Right now these games seem to be having some issues, like an inability to select letters at times within “Words With Friends Frenzy,” one of 17 games available at launch. That may explain why Facebook isn’t officially opening up Instant Games to developers yet. According to a Facebook blog post announcing Instant Games, Instant Games are available in a limited test to gaming companies like Konami, King and, of course, Zynga.
Instant Games can be embedded within posts on Facebook — like this one — which can appear in people’s news feeds. Based on the examples I’ve come across this morning, those posts will include a video teasing the game, and people can click on the game controller button — which appears in place of a normal video’s play button — to start the game.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions asking whether companies will be able to promote their Instant Games as ads and, if so, where those ads could appear.
Within Facebook’s mobile app, there’s an option to challenge a friend to play the game alongside you within Messenger, but it seems to be buggy; for example, right now I can only challenge a single person that happens to be the most recent person I’ve friended on Facebook. On Facebook’s site I couldn’t find an option to challenge a friend to play.
After playing the game, people will be shown a screen displaying their score and a camera icon that, when clicked, will show them a screenshot of the game with their score that can be shared to Facebook. When people share their score or the original post they clicked on to start the game, that post can appear in their friends’ news feeds, where those friends can click to start the game themselves.
To start an Instant Game within Messenger, people can click a game controller icon that appears atop the keyboard when a message thread is open. People don’t have to play the game at the same time as their opponent. Instead they can play whenever they want, and their resulting score will be shown to their opponent, whose score will, in turn, be shown in the message thread.
People can see a list of Instant Games they have played within a new Instant Games section that appears within the menu section of Facebook’s mobile app. I haven’t been able to find a corresponding Instant Games section on Facebook’s site.