Yes... but, as the guy with the bright suit on infomercials says, you gotta act fast.
Ten years ago I stumbled into a rather drab party across the street from the Game Developer Conference. I started chatting with the party’s host, a guy named Mark Pincus, who was trying to recruit folks like me. He said that Flash games running in the web browser atop Facebook were catching on fire. I silently laughed at him. Around a year later, I felt like a dope as Mark’s company Zynga peaked at 58 million dailies:
So in late 2016, when Facebook announced the ability to build games atop Messenger, I was all in.
In some ways, Messenger is an even more powerful platform than the 2009 Facebook newsfeed. I think there are two obvious reasons for this, sandwiching a non-obvious one:
- Obvious #1: More and more people are spending more and more of their time on smartphones.
- Not-So Obvious: People don’t download new apps anymore. They are basically sticking with the tried and true apps on their home screen. According to comScore, 51% of folks don’t download anything and 24% download two or less apps per month.
- Obvious #2: Messenger is one of those apps, with 1.3 Billion users. It is now April 2018. There are over 200 instant games and growing fast:
The initial games to launch on the platform achieved crazy success, at least in terms of installs. A few public figures below. Most of these studios were able to achieve their player count without paid marketing.
The reason for this delicious growth is that the platform was gated, and every game was proven — via metrics — to be a winner. To get your game on Messenger:
- First Facebook had to approve your studio and your idea and make sure you had some cred.
- Then you would soft launch in a small country.
- Only if the retention was strong and session length was long enough would they “pull the switch” and launch your game worldwide.
But a few weeks ago Facebook opened up the gates. Now anyone can launch their game at any point, with just basic approval of content.
Facebook also, of course, announced a new ad product so that they can offer to sell you ads to help with user acquisition. How sweet, eh?
So does that mean Instant Games are now going to be a hyper-competitive, saturated market similar to the iPhone and Android app stores? I think within a year or two the answer will be yes — the discovery of a new Messenger game is going to become way difficult.
But a few headwinds make the current market still very viable:
- Once an Instant Game takes off it is, by its nature, mega-viral since a well-designed game involves your friends and takes place right in your chat thread, with your buddies.
- Facebook’s internal video ad product is becoming decent and delivering better revenue.
- Facebook is launching In App Purchases within Instant Games soon, piggybacking atop Apple and Google and making it really easy to grab a few more gems. HTML5 is a pretty difficult technology to develop vs. mobile games with Unity or Unreal. It involves a lot more specialized expertise and QA to make sure the games work well on all platforms. This means that not every studio with spare resources, ambitious student, and “weekend indie” will be able to ship a title. For example, our game agency Double Coconut is helping lots of great folks design and launch successful Instant Games — but we are long-time fans and builders upon/contributors to HTML5 so we have a lot of battle-scars and a lot of proven code that helps avoid things from bogging down.
The list of titles is getting ever-longer, so jump in, dare I say, this instant.