There was a point in time, probably my sophomore year of college, where I managed to get the high score on every Ms. Pac-Man arcade game I came across. It was a skill that also extended to traditional Pac-Man—a far less challenging game, in my opinion—and resulted in me meeting and challenging numerous longtime friends in places like laundromats, arcades, and bars, where I fought to defend my undefeated status.
Despite the fact that I live across the country from most of those friends now, starting today, I can challenge some of them to a game of Pac-Man over Facebook Messenger, with no need for either of us to download anything new.
The arcade classic is one of 17 games that Facebook is now offering through a new feature called Instant Games. Available in both Messenger and your Facebook News Feed, the HTML5 games can load in just 5-10 seconds on your mobile phone or laptop, with no need to download anything or point your browser to a new site. You can even play right in Messenger in the same window where you were bragging about your fantastic Galaga skills moments before.
“With HTML5 we’re in a new era now where you don’t actually have to download an app in order to get a high-quality experience,” says Leo Olebe, director of global games at Facebook.
Olebe says the goal of the feature is to make it easier for people to discover, play, and share games with friends on the platform. So rather than searching for a game and trading links to connect elsewhere, you can just play.
Users can access the games through a new game controller icon within Messenger (it’s right below where you typically type a message), through links you see on News Feed, or via a new Instant Games bookmark. Leaderboards will keep you up to date on how your current high score compares to that of your friends.
At launch, there will be 17 instant games available including Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, Words With Friends, Shuffle Cats Mini, EverWing, Zookeeper, and Brick Pop. Instant Games is in closed beta for developers, but those who want to get their game into the mix can apply to be included as well.
The immediate goal is to perfect the experience, so right now, all of the supported games are free to play and don’t have ads or in-app purchases. Down the line, we’ll likely see some sort of monetization strategy applied to them.
“I think it’s a really exciting time for the platform,” says Olebe. “We’ve done a lot of different stuff with Facebook games this year, but we can’t wait to see how people are really going to engage with this. It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun.”