Harnessing the potential of instant play platforms

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Breaking away from legacy distribution models that focus on attracting potential gamers to them through marketing, video games are starting to expand directly to where global audiences are located. In doing so, they make their games available to a large number of users with a few quick clicks, dramatically increasing their potential player base and creating additional revenue streams.

This is the rise of the instant play model. This isn’t entirely new – many of us will recall sneakily playing browser games on high school computers. Helicopter, one of my personal favorites, has to be the most cloned game on the internet (and quite possibly the inspiration for Flappy Bird). But, more recently, the major social media platforms have taken significant milestones in instant play, adding immense value to their users and creating an unprecedented opportunity for game developers.

Social instant play platforms

Above: Games can also be social networks.

Image Credit: Snap Games / Voodoo

The biggest threat to Facebook (Meta), Snap, and even Netflix, isn’t the other. It is platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite that are increasingly recognized as social networks as well as gaming platforms. To fend off this threat, “traditional” social media platforms are leveraging their gargantuan audience to create serious instant play offers that add value and increase the rigidity of their platform. Yes, it’s all about user loyalty.

Leaving Facebook’s mind-boggling 2.91 billion monthly active users aside for the time being, other platforms like Snap are creating meaningful instant play offerings. Snap has 500 million monthly active users, but you might not know that around 30 million of them play Snap Games every month. Even with “only” 16-17% of its users playing games, that makes Snap one of the largest gaming platforms in the world. Another major social platform, Chinese player WeChat, offers mini-games with tens of millions of users each. For context, the PS5, the best-selling games console of all time, has moved 13.4 million units. Most recently, 2021’s biggest achievement, TikTok, announced that it is launching into the game through an exclusive title created by Zynga.

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For game developers and publishers, especially those familiar with building HTML5 games (the 13-year-old development language that now has its time in the sun because of its power to create cross-platform games), the opportunities are there. limpid.

However, there is no quick fix.

Snap games are organized, which means developers have to work directly with Snap or experienced partners to bring their games to the platform. And, with 350 million people playing games on Facebook, acquiring and retaining users isn’t easy. This means that social instant play is, right now, an additional revenue stream for games with an existing presence rather than a source of money for independent developers. But with such a large audience, built-in social features, and ready-made friend lists, who would bet against social instant gaming platforms becoming a mainstream gaming method?

Browser-based instant play

Above: Crazy games.

Image Credit: Crazy Games

The OEM of Flash-based instant play, the humble browser-based gaming platform has been reinvigorated in the HTML5 era. Take the long-standing Miniclip. Founded in 2001, it sold a majority stake to Tencent in 2015 and now has over 50 million daily active users playing hit games like 8 Ball Pool and Head Ball 2.

Miniclip is far from the only one; there are many others with varied specialties. Poki (30 million MAU) focuses on well-known IPs like SYBO’s Subway Surfers or Hipster Whale’s Crossy Road, while Crazy Games (11 million MAU) is an incredibly developer-friendly platform that encourages Cross-platform promotion, allowing developers to easily download browser-based exports of Unity and Unreal games.

The resurgence of browser games is in part fueled by improvements in browser technology and in particular mobile browsers. Mobile browsers now support much of the same technology as desktop computers, enabling high-quality gaming experiences on mobile devices and frictionless cross-browser gaming experiences. Video game companies like GoodGame Studios have even demonstrated that it is possible to build a hugely successful business while completely bypassing traditional game markets; flourished as a browser-only studio before expanding to mobile and other areas.

More generally, browser-based instant game platforms are one of many avenues of commercialization, providing out-of-the-box access to a large audience through relatively simple technology. The fact that browser-based platforms generally do not require exclusivity and allow games to be promoted across multiple platforms means that they can provide a huge and profitable boost to multi-user acquisition. platforms and regions. They can also be a valuable additional revenue stream, although monetization is more difficult than in app stores due to lower ad performance and the lack of transparent payment options for in-game purchases.

Instant Cloud Play

No article on instant play would be complete without a nod to cloud gaming (where remote servers take most of the burden of running the game). Becoming the ‘Netflix of games’ has become a goal applied to many nascent cloud gaming platforms (although it is not Netflix, which although it is a video streaming platform). , currently offers games to download). Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the de facto market leader, with platforms like Google Stadia stepping back from more ambitious targets to focus on providing infrastructure to other game companies.

Above: Antstream.

Image Credit: Antstream

For developers, there are definitely some instant cloud play opportunities. The retro gaming platform Antstream, for example, breathes new life into popular retro titles like the ZX Spectrum Manic Miner platform curio. Cloud gaming also potentially opens up games to gamers in developing countries who do not have access to specialized hardware, and introduces a relatively untapped monetization model to gaming in the form of subscriptions, which of course are ubiquitous in music and video streaming. Ubisoft, creator of Assassin’s Creed, recently launched its own proprietary cloud platform, Ubisoft +, allowing subscribers to access the latest PC titles with the added boost of cloud technology for their hardware. Facebook has also rolled out its mobile cloud gaming service across the United States and is well positioned to deliver the scale of the user base that cloud gaming needs to be economically viable.

Metaverse Instant Play

Above: Roblox.

Image Credit: Roblox

Games like Roblox and Minecraft as well as blockchain gamified game platforms like Somnium Space and Axie Infinity are entry points to the formative metaverse. Currently, each of them requires an initial download or installation to access them. This is just the start, and I can see that change in two ways in the near future.

First, metaverse instant play will become a reality thanks to games like Worlds FRVR, a Minecraft-style VR title on Facebook Instant Gaming that doesn’t require any downloads or installations. Second, the above games and experiences will be recognized as stand-alone platforms in themselves. The way players easily switch between experiences without additional downloads is, in fact, instant play. With over 220 million monthly active users, this is just a small change in perception between Robox as a “game” and Roblox as an “instant play platform”.

As the popularity of user-generated content, blockchain games, and play-to-win increases, the friction currently present on these platforms will rapidly diminish to make them seamless entry points to the metaverse instant play.

A huge opportunity

Technology has enabled almost frictionless access to music and video content in a way that is not yet a reality for gamers. But, increasingly, top gaming content is something they can find on platforms they already spend time on or through a few clicks of the mouse in a browser. It remains to be seen whether the largest market share is ultimately achieved by social platforms like Snap, non-blockchain social game metavers like Roblox, or blockchain game platforms like Axie Infinity, but the opportunities for instant content flow among an audience. broad and engaged are potentially a game-changer for publishers.

Michael Hudson is CEO and co-founder of GameBake, the comprehensive global game distribution platform.

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