Facebook Updates Instant Games, Gameroom At F8

Facebook revealed plans at its F8 developer conference to improve how games are presented, discovered, and played on its social networks.

The plans center around two platforms introduced in November 2016: Instant Games and Gameroom. The former allows Facebook users to play games right from the News Feed or Messenger service regardless of what platform they use; the latter is a semi-independent platform that essentially serves as a pseudo-Steam for more casual gamers.

Facebook said in a blog post that more than 1.5 billion games have been played via Instant Games over the last 90 days. That can most likely be attributed to the HTML5 platform's ubiquity. Unlike more established gaming services, like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, Instant Games doesn't care what hardware you use--nor does it require a monthly fee, which has become more common over the last couple of years.

It's clear that Instant Games is a large market. Now game devs will be able to take better advantage of that potential audience. Facebook said:

At F8, we introduced rich gameplay features to give developers more control of the gaming experiences they create. Developers can customize their own start and end screens and integrate new APIs that can help drive share & connected gameplay. Rich gameplay features are laying the groundwork to support a wider variety of games that extend beyond the light-weight, score-based games currently offered on the platform.

The company said Instant Games devs will also be able to use game bots to "create engaging ways for players to connect to their games through actions they take directly within a Messenger chat — even when they are not playing!" (And here we thought game makers disapproved of bots.) Messenger will also be updated with a dedicated "games" tab, which should make it easier for you to find games on the communications platform.

Gameroom will see a similar update with Games Feed, a "continuously updating list of stories that are [100%] focused on games-related content," which sounds like the news streams already present in Steam. Facebook said it will also become even easier to bring games to the platform:

To allow more developers the opportunity to bring their games onto this emerging PC-gaming platform, we're rolling out a closed-beta of the new Gameroom platform SDK that will offer developers the flexibility to port games that are built in a variety of engines, including Unreal Engine, cocos2d and more.

The company also expanded on the announcement that you can live-stream from your PC. "Our goal is to enable gamers and streamers to connect with each other and the games they love in more meaningful ways," Facebook said. It plans to make good on that promise with the help of XSplit, an app from SplitmediaLabs that will let "platform partners" stream directly to specific Groups. That could prove useful for esports and Let's Plays.

If you're a game developer, you can apply to enter the closed betas of the Instant Games platform and Gameroom platform SDK on Facebook's website. And if you aren't, you might want to check out other news from F8, such as Facebook's pushes into social VR and mobile AR.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.