Facebook Launch Instant Games for Messenger

Facebook just made Messenger a lot more interesting, or at least time consuming. They've been tinkering around with ways to add more gaming functionality to the service for a while, and now we've got it, in the form of Instant Games.

It's a small library of mobile iterations of classic titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and more recent, Facebook-centric fare like an updated version of Words with Friends. Since the games are built from a basic HTML5 framework, they load instantly without any need to download anything. They can be played either through Messenger or even through the Facebook news feed, on mobile or web.

As of today, it's available in 30 countries, but still technically on a closed beta, so don't fret if you can't see the little control pad prompt yet, it'll turn up soon. The idea is to get people hanging around on Messenger for more reasons that just talking, and as any veteran of the simple, yet fiendishly addictive Messenger basketball game will tell you, beating some else's high score does that job very well indeed.

The games themselves are, apparently, a bit hit and miss at the moment. The controls seem to be the most common source of complaint, not everything is ideally suited to a touchscreen, or a mouse and keyboard, and few things are ideally suited to both. The strongest points are the graphics and general presentation; judging from the videos and written testimony, the games look and feel great.

The most important thing, though, is the score driven, rapid fire approach they take, daring players to lock themselves into a feverish battle of oneupmanship. Have you ever tried to keep up with a 9-way Messenger conversation? Well now imagine that when all the people involved are also trying to get the top score on Akranoid.

Once this is fully available, Facebook will presumably open things up to third party developers, and then the real fun can begin. Instant Games will always be a limited toolkit, but I guarantee that indie developers will find far more interesting ways to utilise it than just cloning arcade classics. I just hope they open rehab clinics as well.

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