Facebook is the latest tech giant to get into the world of cloud gaming — but the company’s offering is quite a bit different than the competition.
Unlike Amazon or Google, which both offer standalone cloud gaming services for a fee, Facebook is introducing cloud games to its existing app — several of which are playable right now.
“We’re doing free-to-play games, we’re doing games that are latency-tolerant; at least to start,” says Jason Rubin, Facebook’s vice president of play.
“We’re not promising 4K, 60fps, so you pay us $6.99 per month. We’re not trying to get you to buy a piece of hardware, like a controller.”
According to Rubin, the reason Facebook is exploring the cloud is because it opens up the types of games it can offer.
The company started out in games more than a decade ago with Flash-based hits like FarmVille before moving to HTML5 for its Instant Games platform, but both of those technologies are relatively limited to smaller, simpler experiences.
Rubin says expanding to the cloud means more complex games that the company can still offer in a fast, seamless way. Those HTML5 games aren’t going away but will instead sit alongside the new cloud offerings inside the Facebook app.
(It should be noted that Facebook acquired Spanish cloud gaming service PlayGiga last year, paving the way for this rollout.)
“The platform is going to allow the 300 million players that we have to continue to play the games they like, but we think they’ll branch out and play more complex games as well,” Rubin says. Free-to-play cloud games are launching on Facebook in beta starting today, and the initial crop of titles includes mostly Android ports, like the 3D racer Asphalt 9 and the idle roleplaying game Mobile Legends: Adventure.
They’re rolling out in the US to start — Facebook says that will include California, Texas, and states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. And they’ll be available both via the web and the Facebook app on Android.
“We’re not on iOS right now, which is a big problem for us,” says Rubin.“We are barred from having Facebook launch the browser and play the game.” (It’s also something of a theme for cloud gaming on iOS.)
Aside from the types of games available, the core experience won’t be very different for Facebook users.
You go to Facebook, see a game you like, click on it, and start playing straight away. But today’s rollout also comes with some useful features, including a new cross-progression system tied to your Facebook login.
If you start playing Asphalt 9 through Facebook, for instance, and then decide to download the mobile app, all of your progression will carry over as it’s tied to your login.
Facebook’s approach to cloud gaming is quite different philosophically from competitors like Google Stadia or Amazon’s Luna. The company isn’t hyping up its technology or trying to secure big exclusive games. Instead, it feels like more of an extension of what Facebook already offers: quick, easy-to-pick-up titles that can fill up some idle moments in your day.