Facebook is opening up its Messenger app to outside game developers, the company announced Tuesday, with some of the first titles including Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders and more modern fare like Words With Friends.
To start a game, Facebook Messenger users can tap an icon that looks like a video game controller located underneath the text entry field in a message, which will pull up a list of available titles. Once a player has finished a round of a game, his or her score will appear in the thread. Other friends in the chat will then be able to challenge that score and keep track of how each player stacks up via a leaderboard that appears when launching the game. The platform, called Instant Games, is launching in a closed beta to developers.
Facebook previously experimented with casual gaming in Messenger by adding hidden chess, soccer, and basketball games that can be accessed by sending the corresponding emoji to recipients in a chat thread. But this new update will be the first time that full third-party games will be available through Facebook's chat platform.
By adding games to Messenger, Facebook is hoping to rejuvenate the boom in social gaming that occurred around 2010 with the popularity of games like Farmville. "There was a golden age of social gaming which was mainly on the Facebook platform where games were built on a social platform," says David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. "That hasn't happened since."
Games in Messenger are currently free, but Marcus says the company will be looking at "ways for game developers to generate revenue" next year. While games are turn-based in Messenger, Marcus hinted that simultaneous gameplay could be an option in the future. "We've been building more and more real-time stuff around voice and video, and we'll continue doing more real-time things and that will potentially come to games," he said.