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Following Microsoft’s, Google’s, and Amazon’s lead, Facebook is the latest tech giant to push into the burgeoning market of cloud-based video games.
The social media conglomerate announced as much on Monday: Five games make up the starting lineup, and they can be played via stream through Facebook, on smartphones, tablets, and computers.
But why is Facebook getting involved in video game streaming?
The answer, unsurprisingly, may be core to Facebook’s business: Ad sales.
Like Facebook itself, the new game streaming service is a test bed for serving ads — games are just the way to get people using the tech, and to test its limits.
“Building on our HTML5 playable ads format, we’re launching cloud playable ads,” Facebook vice president of play Jason Rubin wrote in the announcement. “With this new format, we can now support interactive demos from a game’s native code, blurring the line between games and ads.”
These aren’t your standard video advertisement, but playable ads that offer interactivity with whatever game is being advertised. As Facebook puts it: “Cloud playable ads are cloud-hosted interactive ads that provide an authentic preview of a full game.”
Rather than having to download a free version, or a demo, people can instantly play whatever game is being advertised.
The social media giant imagines a future where, while scrolling through Facebook, you see an ad for the next major “Call of Duty” that offers you an instant opportunity to play a level of the game’s campaign.
In this hypothetical, Facebook would get the advertising spend from “Call of Duty” publisher Activision, the publisher would get potential buyers to try its big new game, and Facebook users would get to try out a big new game before buying it.
You might see those ads through the Facebook Gaming portal, or you might see them on your Facebook news feed (or both).
Notably, the lineup of games that can be streamed through Facebook Gaming is small, and so far consist entirely of mobile games already available on various devices. That’s by design, according to Rubin.
“To start out, we decided to go with existing games and expand their reach,” he told Business Insider. “I would say, please don’t look at these first five titles and think that’s all we have.”
“A year from now, it will look much more diverse,” Rubin added.
At the moment, it’s unclear what Facebook’s long-term strategy is for its cloud-gaming service. It has no apparent monthly subscription price — unlike Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, Google’s Stadia, or Amazon’s Luna — and the games available on the service are all free.
But video game streaming may be a way of expanding a new advertising product. Facebook and Google accounted for a majority of digital advertising in 2019, according to eMarketer, and advertising is a core part of Facebook’s business model.
The new games service, then, like Facebook itself, would be paid for through advertising. Players become usage data which becomes grist for the advertising mill that Facebook’s business is built on.
Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.SEE ALSO: Facebook just dropped details of its secretive cloud gaming service – including 5 titles users will be able to play in-app this week
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