Facebook Announces Gameroom - Look Out Steam

Facebook must occupy its time with the careful concoction of business plans to rip off successful competitors. Er ... that's a bit harsh. As a company with the largest reach over our feeble lives, Facebook is determined to find any possible way to take over markets that it has no business being in. Okay, it turns out that I can't say this without bitterness: Facebook has officially announced Gameroom.

In official competition with Steam - a multiplayer gaming platform and library granting access to thousands of games from indies to shooters - Gameroom is Facebook's attempt to quash their success. On the official website, it reads: "Discover a better place to play. From shooters to strategy, builders to bingo, find your game in Gameroom - designed for PC gaming."

Formerly called Facebook Games Arcade, Gameroom is able to launch web, ported mobile, or native Gameroom games from a dedicated PC app. The free desktop gaming service, in development since May, is available to computers running Windows 7 and up. Happily, the very notion of Facebook (blue/white, bright and full of pictures) is removed in favour of a dark interface. However, in order to use the gaming client, you must be logged into Facebook at all times. Each dowloaded title requires approval for access to your profile. Before allowing each title access, it's best to check what information is required and why beforehand.

The beta build was opened to developers to encourage early development of native Gameroom titles. Currently, only games smaller than 200MB are allowed on the platform, though games up to 500MB will be approved on a case-by-case basis. Facebook claims that the Gameroom launcher will offer "better solutions around threading, debugging, networking and memory management" in addition to supporting multiple game formats, like HMTL5, Flash, Unity WebGL, and standalone Windows .exe (termed as Gameroom native since it's hosted on Facebook hosting). This all sounds awfully familiar ...

Gameroom (left) v. Steam (right) Interface

Steamy Competition

Tap Scape
Steam has been a staple in PC gaming since the mid-2000's. Built in 2003, the all-in-one launcher was created to host Valve games; specifically, it was developed for Counter-Strike to automatically thwart hacking, apply updates to games, and act as a support network for players. It didn't find much popularity outside of Valve games until the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004. Here, Steam hit a small hiccup. As one of the most popular games of all time, selling over 6.5 million copies not including Steam sales, the influx of players caused Steam's unequipped servers to crash. For a while, this marked the desktop gaming launcher as unnecessary to the gaming scene. In 2005, the company finally hit its stride thanks to the steady acquisition of external publishers whose games were sold on Steam. In acquiring these publishers, Steam created a marketplace suited to every genre of game and provided a solid platform off of which to browse for and play games. It now commands a 70% share of the entire PC market.

With its 125 million active users, I seriously doubt that Gameroom will be able to compete. It's a great service, allowing IM-style chatting with friends and tracking game statistics including length of time spent playing each game in your library. For a long time now, Steam has been the leading desktop platform in providing unusual games alongside popular ones. A massive library of 781 million games encourages Steam users to create a wishlist. If you're lucky, some of those games will go on sale. Steam will send you an email when a game on your wishlist has gone on sale.

Can Facebook Appeal to PC Gamers?


PC gaming is not for the faint of heart. It requires basic PC knowledge, significant time dedication, bearing the complementary label (nerd), and a good chunk of money to get started. However, once you've made the conversion, there's no going back to console gaming. The elitist mentality of PC gamers is no exaggeration. Additionally, gamers throw around the term "casual" as a negative name for people who casually play games. That seems to be Facebook's target audience, the mainstream, uninitiated bunch who can't be bothered to invest in PC gaming.

For now, Gameroom is a glorified launcher for Facebook games with, perhaps, the hopes of frontlining the VR scene. It remains to be seen how Gameroom will be received by the gaming community. Announced in August, a partnership with Unity Technologies, a game development engine, is in the works potentially meaning a more varied library appealing to hardcore gamers in the future.

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