Facebook is joining Amazon and Google to offer a cloud gaming service. But keep your expectations low.
The service launches today as a beta on Facebook Instant Games at fb.gg/play and on the company’s mobile app. Android and PC users can try out the service, but the catalog of titles is limited to only mobile games available for Android or iOS. So no, you won’t find any AAA titles for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or even Windows PCs here.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting with games typically played on mobile devices,” VP of Play Jason Rubin wrote in a Monday blog post. “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.”
The lack of AAA title support is hugely underwhelming when the whole point of cloud gaming is to let you play PC/console-based titles without owning the necessary hardware. However, today’s announcement from Facebook is all about the company laying a foundation for cloud gaming, which it expects to take off—but not for a while.
In the same blog post, Rubin went out of his way to say: “We’re not going to overpromise and under-deliver,” and “we’re not trying to replace your favorite gaming hardware.
“Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future,” Rubin wrote.
Facebook’s first set of games over the cloud service include:
Asphalt 9: Legends by Gameloft
Mobile Legends: Adventure by Moonton
PGA TOUR Golf Shootout by Concrete Software, Inc.
Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale by Qublix Games
WWE SuperCard by 2K Games
Dirt Bike Unchained by Red Bull Apps will be added in the coming weeks
Of course, you can play the games on iOS or Android too. But with cloud gaming you won’t need to download them. It also paves the way for PC gamers to enjoy the mobile titles using a mouse and keyboard.
Facebook is rolling out the service in the US, first across California, Texas, and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states including, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, and West Virginia. “We’ll expand regional access in the coming months as we scale the infrastructure needed to roll out cloud gaming across the US,” Rubin added.
Although the scale of the beta remains small, Facebook is hinting at some grand ambitions. By delving into cloud gaming, the company is setting up the prospect of users one day playing any game simply over the Facebook News Feed. The cloud-based games will also display ads, offering another way for the social network to generate revenue.
The company is offering game developers a taste of this through “cloud playable ads,” which can preview a mobile game on the Facebook News Feed while using the company’s cloud gaming technology. “With this new format, we can now support interactive demos from a game’s native code, blurring the line between games and ads,” Rubin wrote.
Facebook plans on expanding its list of cloud gaming titles next year. But for now, the company says its cloud gaming won’t be arriving on iPhone devices, citing Apple’s newly introduced policy to restrict certain kinds of game streaming on iOS.
Facebook is also making an important change to how user accounts appears in the cloud gaming service. “For the first time on Facebook, we’re introducing player names and gaming-themed avatars for players to represent themselves in game instead of using their full name and profile picture,” Rubin wrote.
Game developers interested in Facebook cloud gaming can also enable cross-play. If they do, then users on the cloud gaming service can face off against others users playing the game on a different platform.