Facebook is updating its aging gaming ecosystem, the company announced on Monday. The social media giant is entering the cloud gaming trend and plans to leverage this technology to stream AAA free-to-play experiences directly to its users in browsers and on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In this way, Facebook is joining Google, Microsoft, Sony, Nvidia and Amazon who already have cloud gaming services under development or in the market. Except that Facebook’s cloud games are free for everyone – as long as they have a Facebook account.
The beta starts on Monday on Android devices and on the Internet.
Of course, none of this is that surprising. Facebook showed its hand in December 2019 when it bought European cloud gaming provider PlayGiga for € 70 million ($ 78 million). This fulcrum for cloud gaming is a huge technological shift for Facebook that has traditionally allowed developers to use on-platform technology like HTML5 to create and run games for its users. What is surprising is how much Jason Rubin, the company’s vice president of play, downplayed the transition.
Polygon spoke to Rubin about Zoom ahead of Monday’s announcement. He stressed that Facebook will initially focus on free titles like the racing game Asphalt 9: Legends. All of these cloud-based experiences were hand-picked to be “latency tolerant,” meaning that they are games that do not rely on solid local infrastructure, clear connections or nearby data centers.
“We’re further removed from any other cloud product than we are from each other in what we’re trying to do,” said Rubin.
He hopes people enjoy the experience that allows them to play with friends on their timeline by simply clicking on an ad for a specific game. But if it doesn’t work out, he says he won’t be out of shape.
“If you don’t like it, that’s fine,” said Rubin. “But we think that over time we will get better and better at delivering these games, have more facilities and more likely that people will keep playing on our platform.”
Rubin emphasized that Facebook will neither launch its own game streaming service – as Google did with its Stadia platform – nor build its own specialized controller. Players can play these games using the mouse and keyboard or the touchscreen on their phone. Facebook also won’t bring in marquee console titles from publishers like Bethesda, CD Projekt Red, or Ubisoft, and won’t charge a subscription fee – unlike Amazon’s newly announced Luna service, for example, which costs $ 5.99 a month and rolls out early Access from.
“No investment, no promises,” said Rubin.
The calculation is pretty simple. It’s about putting these cloud-based experiences in front of the millions of Facebook users here in the US. It will work for many people from the start, and when new dedicated data centers go online in the US – and internationally – the experience will be better for others. As a result, the quality of the games available on Facebook will be much better, and this improvement will result in more revenue across the platform, according to Rubin.
“It’s been 13 years,” said Rubin, “since Facebook took its big leap into gaming,” and today we have 30 million people a month still playing games [on Facebook]. It’s literally the same 30 million people a month. “
The cloud, he says, will allow newer and more exciting games to show up among Facebook users, either as advertising in the news feed or as clips in individual user posts. Instead of downloading a huge client or leaving the Facebook platform, aspiring gamers can start playing in just a few seconds.
According to Rubin, cloud-based applications will inherently offer many quality of life improvements – especially on mobile devices. No more need to clean up the storage space on your phone when you want to play a new game. Once you’ve gotten away from a particular title for a few months or even years, getting back into a game is a breeze. When a friend shares a clip of their last playthrough on your timeline, you can just click on it and play it yourself. As the catalog expands, Facebook’s gaming page becomes a varied menu of free, instant delicacies for users to browse – in the style of a Roman emperor, as Rubin put it.
“‘No, I don’t like that,'” he said during our call, putting his hand on his chin and playing with the folds of his invisible toga. “It’s really a small investment for them, so they will see a lot more games. And – you know how it is – you hate most of the games. And that’s good. But at some point they’ll find a game they like because we know everyone, somewhere, likes a few games. “
For developers, Rubin said Facebook ensures that any game a user develops an affinity for isn’t tied to the social media platform alone. With every game that starts on Monday, users can take their in-app purchases with them to other platforms. He says there is nothing about the Facebook solution preventing other developers from following the same pro-consumer template.
“If we do something wrong,” said Rubin, “you have that option [to play these games elsewhere]. ”
“That means happier consumers,” Rubin continued, “and happier consumers always come from happier developers. Because dedicated, happy consumers will spend or do whatever it takes to enjoy this game. We believe the ecosystem is better. And again when they go to an app store [to download the game instead of playing it inside Facebook], three thumbs up. That’s great. We have now made a developer happy and we’ve made a consumer happy. And finally, we ran the ads, the ads are more effective. And we are an advertising business. This is how free games find people. “
According to Rubin, Facebook takes a similarly generous approach when it comes to revenue sharing.
“I buy tires Asphalt 930% go to Facebook, 70% to the developers, ”said Rubin. “The developer sees a normal cut. If you play this on Google Play – and that’s where most of our game will take place since we are mostly a mobile company – 30% goes to Google, 70% to the developer. A big zero comes to Facebook. We do this because we believe in it, but we are ready to give Google that 30% on the Google platform. So it’s not about money. “
Apple’s iOS is a different story, said Rubin. Facebook will not invest the energy to launch a beta of its cloud gaming solution there. That’s because Apple has put in place a lot of different rules that make the platform extremely challenging, both technically and financially. Similar problems are encountered with Google, Microsoft and Amazon.
“We’d be ready to give Apple the 30%,” said Rubin. “Nevertheless we are blocked […] This makes a decent customer experience for iOS. We’re still checking to see if there is a way, but it’s difficult. ”
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