Facebook Messenger Updated with Pac-Man and Other Classics - Dispatch Weekly

November 30, 2016 - Reading time: 7 minutes

Facebook has updated the Messenger app allowing users to play games such as Galaga, Pac-Man and Space Invaders, competing with friends who are online.

Available now, the games will open seamlessly from chat conversations without the long loading times normally associated with opening a dedicated gaming app.

How does the New Gaming Platform Work?

Photo Credit: Facebook
Photo Credit: Facebook

A new button will be added to the standard Messenger interface: a game controller icon. Pushing this new button will bring up the list of available games, numbering 17 at launch.

The multiplayer on offer is asynchronous, which means that users won’t be competing with your friends in real-time.

Instead they will set a high score in a game and then challenge their friends to see if they can beat it.

Users can even add a doodle to their high screen score to customize what their friends see when they receive a challenge.

At launch the new update will be available in 30 countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Canada, but users need to have at least iOS v8 or Android v5 to be able to play the games on their phone.

In addition to challenging friends on the Messenger app it will also be able to play while on a home PC, thanks to cross functionality between the Messenger app and Facebook.

Will Games Help Win Back Consumers from Rival Apps?

Photo Credit: Facebook Community
Photo Credit: Facebook Community

Facebook has struggled to re-invigorate their gaming division as more and more users have gone over to mobile.

Facebook once dominated on PC with games like Farmville, made by Zynga, which at its peak in 2010 attracted more than 80 million active users.

But on mobile devices games have to be purchased from the iOS and Android app stores, which means Facebook isn’t getting the full cut of profits.

Facebook isn’t the first company to test out in-chat gaming. LINE, which has upward of 200 million users globally and is owned by the South Korean Naver Corporation, launched its own gaming platform, which has since exploded in popularity in Japan.

WhatsApp, however, is Messengers primary competitor. In April 2016 WhatsApp had 1 billion active users worldwide, compared the Messengers 900 million. More recent numbers have now put Messenger at 1 billion global users.

WhatsApp users cite a number of reasons for preferring the platform to Messenger. The app can be used on more platforms, it doesn’t need as strong of an Internet connection and users feel that it is a safer platform to chat on.

Will Developers Want to Make Games for Facebook?

Right now developers hoping to develop games for the new platform will need to apply to Facebook and get access to the closed beta for their developer tools. But there’s another catch.

Developers are not yet able to properly monetize their games for the platform. There are no ads on the service and in-game purchases are currently disabled. This could mean that a developer would lose potential revenue by porting their existing game to Messenger.

David Marcus, head of Messenger, said “Over time we’ll find ways for game developers to monetize. That’s our commitment to them in the new year.”

However, until this happens it remains to be seen whether it will be worth it for developers to make games for the platform. If Facebook cannot entice developers to do so the platform may fail before it takes off.

Facebook would be wise to learn a lesson from Microsoft, whose PC gaming platform ‘Games for Windows Live’ was shunned by developers and couldn’t compete with existing platform ‘Steam’. If Facebook wants to make games on messenger a success they need to get developers and players on their side.

Our Top Picks of the Games Currently on Offer

Of the 17 games available at launch on Messenger here are 3 favorites:

  • Space Invaders by Taito – Classic game originally seen in arcades back in 1978, you need to defend your base from row of falling aliens. It controls better than most and is still fun, and challenging, after all these years.
  • Arkanoid by Taito – A brick breaking game first released in 1986. Decent controls for a mobile version and still as fun as I remember from my childhood.
  • Pac-Man by Bandai Namco – While this is far from the best version of Pac-Man released to date, there is still something utterly joyous about guiding the little dude around a maze, eating fruit, dodging ghosts and making that iconic waka waka

Will you use Facebook’s games on messenger or are you distracted enough already?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.