Facebook Moves Into Cloud Gaming

Sunday, December 13, 2020

On October 26, Jason Rubin, VP of Play at Facebook made an announcement via a blog post. This announcement was that Facebook are launching a number of games that can be instantly streamed from the cloud.

Considering the potential the cloud gaming sector has, it should come as no surprise that Facebook has announced they are moving into the market.

What is different about Facebook’s cloud gaming model, is that they are free to play and they are being introduced into the Facebook app. On this, Rubin wrote that,’ we’re not spinning off a separate cloud gaming service. All cloud-streamed games are playable in the same way you play games now on Facebook — whether it’s in our Gaming tab or from News Feed.’ Comparably, Amazon and Google are offering a subscription based service that is accessible on a stand alone app. 

For some, this announcement will have seemed like old news. This is because the service was already available and being tested within particular regions. Rubin states, ‘We recently had 200,000 people playing our cloud-streamed games per week in limited regions’. But for people who don’t have their ears to the ground in this sector, this is a somewhat new development.

Another of Facebook’s angles on the market is that it appears they are not going after the ‘hardcore’ gaming scene. By this we mean that they are keeping gaming without any need for another device, like a controller. Rubin writes, ‘No special hardware or controllers needed – your hands are the controllers since we’re launching with native mobile games. And you can play these games with a mouse and keyboard on desktop.‘

This could be a shrewd move on Facebook’s part. Instead of competing directly for new audiences, they are showcasing the technology to the current user. Rubin continues, ‘As crazy as it sounds, the values of Facebook’s social games from 2010 are nearly identical to the promise of cloud games in 2020: instant access to games on any browser and playable with your friends wherever they are. We’ve always wanted to make games more accessible and give people a place to enjoy a shared love of gaming. Thanks to cloud gaming on Facebook Gaming, we can continue to help people play together, wherever and whenever they want. ‘

It’s quite clear from Rubin’s post that they are not trying to compete with some of the biggest gaming hardware already out there. He says that, ‘We love console and PC gaming and both formats will be around for a long time. We believe cloud gaming will increase — not replace — the options to jump into great games. We’re not trying to replace your phone either. We think you’ll find that there are times when jumping quickly into a cloud game is a better option, and sometimes it’s not.’ 

Interestingly though, the door is not shut to expanding into other cloud gaming based avenues, with Facebook starting off with the free-to-play format that they already know and seeing where that takes them. Rubin continues, ‘Cloud gaming is about expanding the types of games we already offer, so we’ll start with the format people enjoy playing on Facebook: free-to-play games. That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting with games typically played on mobile devices. In the future, our systems and infrastructure will improve to deliver more types of games — possibly all types of games. Until then, rest assured that the cost of trying our cloud games is $0.’

As already mentioned there are some limitations to this current offering. The first of these is that not every region is going to get access to these services straight away. The second is that the service is not being launched on iOS at the moment. 

On this Rubin makes the point, ‘Unfortunately, we’re not launching cloud games on iOS, so only Android and web players will enjoy integrated cloud games on Facebook while we work on alternative options for iOS. Even with Apple’s new cloud games policy, we don’t know if launching on the App Store is a viable path. Of course, there is always the open Internet, so mobile browsers may wind up being an option, but there are limitations to what we can offer on Safari. While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear. Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource. Stay tuned as we work out the best way for people to play games when and how they want, regardless of what device they bought.’

It will be interesting to see how the market develops with Facebook taking a different approach to the other big businesses in the field. Undoubtedly they will try to capitalise on their current audience and move forward from there.