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.
The service launches today in a closed beta with a total of 17 games, including the likes of Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends. According to Leo Olebe, Facebook’s director of global games partnerships, the company was looking for a mix of classic games and new titles that would work well on the fledgling service. “We’re going to find out as time goes by what works on the platform,” he says.
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.
Instant Games joins an increasingly diverse focus on gaming from Facebook. The company recently launched a dedicated PC gaming platform called Gameroom, and Facebook Live is now an important streaming tool built into every Blizzard game. “Each component addresses a different point in someone’s daily experience,” Olebe says of the various offerings. “We want to meet gamers where they are.”