Facebook wants you playing games just about everywhere, and today the company is introducing a new initiative called Facebook Instant Games that it hopes will do just that. Instant Games is an HTML5 gaming platform that lets Facebook users play games on Messenger and in the Facebook News Feed, without the need to download anything. Instant Games are cross-platform, so they’ll work on both the web and mobile.
Facebook is expecting more games to be available soon from more developers. To play the current selection, just go into a conversation in Messenger (if you have the latest version) and tap on the new game controller icon just below where you type your message. Then choose a game and you can start playing immediately. After you finish a round, the people in that conversation will see your score and will get the opportunity to challenge you back.
This isn’t the first time games have been playable in places like Messenger; during March Madness, for instance, Facebook hid a secret basketball game in its messaging service. But Instant Games represents a more concerted effort to make these pick-up-and-play experiences a serious part of its platform. You’ll be able to find and access games in multiple ways. Messenger will now feature a controller icon in its main menu that brings up titles you can play, while the main Facebook app will include a dedicated bookmark so you can find games you’ve already played.
But like FarmVille and other Facebook gaming hits of the past, one of the main ways you’re likely to discover new games is through your friends. Players will be able to share high scores and achievements with their friends via the News Feed, who can then immediately jump in to try the game for themselves. “I think virality is going to be really important,” says Olebe.
Games are also discoverable through the search function in Messenger, as well as in Facebook’s own News Feed, where you can play solo or challenge your friends back in Messenger. Games on Facebook Messenger have score-based leaderboards, in-context chat, and group thread conversations. Since the games are written in HTML5, they run inside Messenger, there’s no need to download anything else.