Will Facebook play it right with its own gaming platform?


Will Facebook play it right with its own gaming platform?
Pretty soon, you'll have more fun and challenging reasons to be on Facebook.

Dubai - Here's why the move makes sense - and also why it is a legit threat to the rest of the playing field

By Alvin R. Cabral

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Published: Wed 31 Aug 2016, 6:07 AM

Last updated: Sun 4 Sep 2016, 6:27 AM

Looks like everyone is trying to outdo each other nowadays - and it doesn't matter if it involves invading another's turf.
And this is exactly the kind of game Facebook will be playing - literally.
The social media giant announced that it will be creating its own gaming platform in cooperation with Unity Technologies, as reported by TechCrunch, who was able to speak with both firms.
This puts Facebook into a potential collision course with established digital distribution firms Steam and Origin.
What's more interesting is that it may also set the stage for a showdown with those other more established gaming consoles, which we'll get to in a little bit.
While Facebook's official release is entitled "Unity and Facebook team up to support game developers", we all know what this means: massive opportunities of all sorts, thanks to - as of the second quarter of 2016 - the 1.712 billion active users on the social media network.

And here's how it stacked up against the rest of the field a couple of months earlier:

Clearly, we have a massive size advantage here.
Facebook says that with Unity - the largest development platform for creating games from 2D and 3D to virtual reality and augmented reality - it will give the latter's developers "new ways to reach and engage the millions of gamers on Facebook". The two firms have already partnered to support Oculus VR game development.
"As an extension of the existing relationship, Unity will integrate support for the Facebook platform, including an all-new PC gaming platform currently in development," it added.
This could also lead to the rise of a whole new line of hardware if and when the platform comes to fruition. Case in point: Apple, in the latest iteration of its Apple TV, heavily pitched its gaming capabilities, which in turn led to the development of third-party controllers.
The only problem is that the whole platform hasn't really gained that much traction of sorts because, in the first place, Apple required game developers to support the Siri Remote, only to relent and allow them to make their own stuff.
And this may lead to Facebook giving developers a free hand in making their own peripherals, which would be an added come-on for gamers. So far, there is no word on this.
Facebook having its own gaming platform is another potentially game-changing move because of the number of users. It may also be a way for them to recoup revenue lost as more games have shifted to mobile.

The social media bellwether was once upon a time a hub for social gaming. (Candy Crush and Farmville, anyone?) According to figures from TechCrunch, Facebook earned a peak of $257 million in payment taxes in the fourth quarter of 2014, but which has then slipped to $197 million in the last quarter, thanks to more users opting for mobile app stores.
Still, that has left Facebook with over 650 million users who play games monthly; it has paid out more than $8 billion to game developers since 2010 - $2.5 billion in 2015 alone.
Along with the announcement, Facebook says it had also selected "a limited group of developers to receive immediate access to a closed-alpha build of the new export to Facebook functionality in Unity version 5.4. New developers will be on-boarded on an ongoing basis throughout the testing period".
It also sent out invitations to interested parties, who may apply until August 31 to request "immediate access and begin testing the alpha build".
TechCrunch was able to come away with more details of their little chat with Facebook and Unity:
. The new platform will run on different types of PCs - not just Windows like their Games Arcade test, which was announced in May.
. The platform has a distraction-free environment, free from other Facebook features
. It will support traditional casual Facebook games, mobile games ported from iOS and Android, and Unity says it will likely support more "immersive" hardcore games such as those seen on Steam or other consoles.
. It will offer discoverability so gamers can find titles to play.
. Facebook will provide a revenue split for game publishers, but it is unclear if it will sway away from the industry-standard 30 per cent it has used previously.
For those who haven't seen Facebook Games Arcade, here it is:

Now for what we broached earlier. If we put some key words together - PCs, ported games and hardcore - it leads to the question: will it, at some point in time, challenge consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo?
Heck, this might even be blueprint of Facebook's own gaming console in the future - something Apple failed at with the Pippin in the 1990s.
We've mentioned Facebook's massive reach; let's crunch some numbers a bit.

To put this into perspective, through the first half of 2016, Sony's PlayStation 4 has sold 40.75 million units, the Xbox One 21.11 million and the Nintendo Wii U 13.14 million. These are the latest machines in the present eighth generation of video gaming.
Steam has over 125 million registered accounts, while Origin has more than 50 million. Ever wondered who among that 1.712 billion figure above are game developers who aren't affiliated with any company?
Thanks to that figure, Facebook may not even need a console in the foreseeable future. And this same figure is the exact reason why developers will be attracted to this huge opportunity.
Facebook practically already has every bit and slice of the Internet, from news feeds to live streaming to payments, and they're hungry for more. With gaming becoming more mobile - and, to a certain extent, a way of life - Mark Zuckerberg and Co want to join this virtual playground - and make the most out play time.
- alvin@khaleejtimes.com

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