serkan AT kantan-games.co.jp

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Facebook’s Instant Games Platform Is Surprisingly Japan-Heavy

Facebook has launched Instant Games yesterday, a new HTML5 cross-platform that could lead to a new era in gaming.

In a nutshell, Facebook allows developers to deploy games that run completely within the Facebook and Messenger clients (both on mobile and desktop).

One tap of the user is enough, and the games start within the client – instantly, with no separate downloads from the App Store or Play Store required (more from Facebook itself here).

1.79 billion people are on Facebook, while 1 billion people use Messenger – hence my first sentence.

Users can start playing Instant Games directly, right after:

  • discovering new games through the Messenger games tab
  • challenging a friend
  • being added to a group conversation
  • seeing it in a shared post/sponsored story in their News Feed

Japan Bets On HTML5 Gaming – With Some Help From The US

What’s interesting from a Japanese perspective is the Japan-heavy initial line-up.

For this closed beta phase that currently runs in 30 countries, Facebook carefully chose a total of 17 games – and 7 are actually Japanese.

What’s more, except for Kiteretsu (the developer behind the Zookeeper puzzle franchise), the titles come from real heavy weights in the local industry: Bandai Namco (7832), Konami (9766), and legendary developer Taito (now owned by Square Enix (9684)).

Taito is offering Space Invaders and Arkanoid, while their iconic hit puzzle franchise Bust-A-Move (aka Puzzle Bobble) is published on Instant Games by Blackstorm in the form of Bust-A-Move Blitz.

The Mountain View-based company recently made the news by raising US$33.5 million. And the company has worked with a stealth gaming company in Japan to secure IP from Taito. TechCrunch is dedicating an entire article to Blackstorm’s titles on Instant Games and the deep tech that’s behind the development.

Blackstorm is using its own technology stack to build HTML5 games, and apparently the performance was so impressive that it led to this top IP deal.

Instant Games itself already does deliver in the beta, generally speaking: the Bust-A-Move Blitz experience, for example, is indistinguishable from a native app (and this comes from somebody who played every Bust-A-Move game, from the Neo Geo in the 1990s to the smartphone titles).

puzzle-bobble-bust-a-move-blitz-blackstorm

puzzle-bobble-bust-a-move-blitz-blackstorm-2

The absence of differences in quality is even clearer in the case of another title available on the platform, the surprisingly deep fantasy shooter Everwing.

While this game doesn’t have a Japanese background (created completely by Blackstorm in-house), it looks and feels like one – even including gacha monetization mechanics (Instant Games are currently all free though):

everwing-blackstorm-2 everwing-blackstorm

The video below shows how fast the game actually runs (however, my recommendation is to simply try out the game directly inside Messenger):

There is only one downside: creating high-quality HTML5 games that run, look and play as smoothly as the two titles mentioned above doesn’t seem to be a simple task from a technical perspective.

This is also true for some of the biggest game companies in the world: to put it mildly, Track & Field from Konami or Shuffle Cats from King, for instance, are disappointments in their current form.

Overall, even though Instant Games is labeled as beta, Facebook has already come out of the gate with a powerful message: HTML5 gaming is ready for the mass market, it can rival native apps in terms of quality and will only get better from here.

And there is already one place in Asia where this is considered old news: in China, hundreds of millions of people have been playing HTML5 games directly inside their messenger of choice WeChat for years now. Chances are Facebook and its user base will follow suit.

Serkan Toto About Serkan Toto
I am the CEO & Founder of Kantan Games, Inc., a Tokyo-based game industry consultancy focused on the Japanese market. Please subscribe to updates on this site via RSS or Email.