After first launching ‘Instant Games’ on Messenger last November, Facebook has now announced the next stage of the project, adding interstitial and rewarded-based video ads to selected games as part of a test to monetize the option.
After the initial launch, Messenger Games were rolled out to all users in May, when Facebook also added in new gameplay options, like the ability to challenge friends and game-specific bots.
Facebook hasn’t yet released any specific stats on Messenger Games usage, but after starting with an initial set of around 20 games, there are now more than 50 different arcade game-style options to choose from, and the move to monetization would suggest that there’s been enough interest in games to justify such a move.
As noted, the ads will offer players to chance to earn in-game bonuses by viewing them, or to make in-app purchases to enhance their experience. Facebook’s rolling out the option with only a small group of publishers to start with, in order to test the best way forward for their game monetization options.
“Based on the results from these initial tests, we’ll begin to enable interstitial and rewarded video ads with additional developers over the coming weeks, as well as further optimize the ad platform. We will also unlock more developer tools for measurement and ad optimization. Opening these capabilities will eventually allow developers to generate revenue from their titles and invest more in further development.”
Facebook will take a cut of the ads shown in Messenger games – though in-app purchases will only start testing on Android (possibly due to Facebook’s ongoing dispute with Apple over the split of revenue from in-app sales).
Messenger games offer an interesting revenue opportunity for Facebook. The Social Network once dominated this type of casual gaming - back in 2008, Facebook was earning $1 million p.a. from in-game purchases, before the dominance of mobile games like Angry Birds and Clash of Clans eventually took over much of the market. Facebook was never able to develop their own mobile games approach to compete, but offering games on Messenger – which now has more than 1.3 billion users – gives Facebook a new opportunity in gaming. With so many people already spending their time in the app, it’s just a matter of getting them to switch across to the games tab.
But still, that, in itself, may be a challenge - Facebook’s other monetization efforts for Messenger have thus far fallen short, with Messenger Bots, specifically, failing to live-up to Zuck and Co’s lofty expectations.
Could it be that the majority of Messenger users only want to use Messenger for, you know, messaging?
That seems to be a key challenge for Facebook, in getting users to see the platform as more than just SMS version 2.0 – in order to make Messenger into the transcendent business platform Facebook really wants, and to capitalize on its high adoption and usage rate, they need users to want to do more within the app.
They’ve tried to highlight the various options by giving them new tabs and adding in recommendations, but thus far, the transition of Messenger into that all-encompassing, next-level platform has been slow.
It can still happen, there’s a heap of potential in Messenger for various purpose, but it’s not quite there yet.
Monetizing games could be another key advance on this front – by giving developers more incentive to create better games, that could help in getting users to see the expanded use-cases for the app, which could then translate into other elements.