Contrary to what some people think, Facebook can be used for a lot more than viewing cat videos, sharing political opinions, and watching how much your old classmates have changed over the years. The social network offers a thriving infrastructure of additional services and features. Some services (like Facebook Business Tools) have professional and practical uses, while others are just around for the users’ entertainment.
Of all the available entertainment services offered by Facebook, Instant Games are undoubtedly among the most popular, and can be found easily in the Facebook interface. IGs (Instant Games) were first released in 2016 as something for users to enjoy outside their newsfeed, and they grew popular very quickly. Research on the games suggests that tens of millions of people play them, which is mind-blowing to many developers who discover the platform.
These programs are lightweight (up to 200 MB of data) and can be played very quickly. Additionally, most of them can be classified as hyper-casual and developed relatively easily. There are so many things appealing about the platform and Facebook Instant Game development, so our aim is to go over the specifics for anyone who wants to get into this business.
We have already mentioned a few of the biggest advantages of developing IGs, but the list does not stop there. Before developers decide whether to invest their time and resources into building a title for this platform, they should have sufficient information about what they will get out of it and what it will take. Here are some additional benefits:
When developers learn that all of the IGs offered by Facebook are free to play, many are dissuaded and discouraged. However, before you make any such decision, you should know that 2 official ways to make money from the platform are still available. The first is in-game advertising. As long as you follow Facebook’s guidelines, you can integrate advertising into your interface, and receive revenue based on how many players see and click the ads.
Secondly, you can also implement in-app purchases, which allow players to receive some special perks in gameplay if they pay for them.
With tens (or perhaps even hundreds) of millions of people gaming on FB, any release has the potential to become a global hit. For example, Zynga Poker, Miniclip 8 Ball Pool, Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, and Coin Masters are all titles that boast over 10 million active users per month. Accordingly, you have the potential to also make the big leagues with your project, and even by hitting a million users, your revenue stream should become impressive. The ultimate success of the project will be determined by user engagement and several other factors that will be examined.
It is no secret that Facebook makes every effort to keep people using their service for as long as possible every day, and games are one of the top avenues of engagement. IGs come in many genres and feature different dynamics, from quick, mindless fun to strategic and complex problem-solving. However, all of the best titles succeed in one thing – keeping the player interested in the process, and this is just the way Facebook likes it. In return for keeping their user base occupied, FB makes it quite easy for you to publish your product in their arcade, and provides plenty of helpful materials to developers.
Facebook analytic tools provided by FB for its developers are priceless and powerful. After your project makes it into the arcade and people start playing it, you will gain access to a broad assortment of data that will give you valuable nuggets of insight into who your product is resonating with, what kind of behavior they demonstrate, and how well certain mechanics and elements are working. If you find issues based on this data, you can make an informed decision on upgrading it, while positive results can help you amplify and expand winning elements in the same way.
IGs are easier to develop than most mobile and desktop titles, but that does not mean that you can just sit down and start building your project without knowing the ins-and-outs of what it will take. Thus, let’s go over the basics of what someone looking to develop IGs should know.
In order to build your project, you will first need to create a “Facebook for Developers” account and get it approved for IG creation. Approval requires that your account be associated with a real business. It should have a Facebook page and must be verified by Facebook staff. Additionally, you will need to present an active and valid Apple Developer Team ID, as your game will be running on various apple devices. After account approval, you can add an App in the “Games” category, assign more people and roles to the project, enable the “Instant Games” option for the app, and get rolling.
Once you are all set and approved, you can begin writing the code and uploading the files. FB stipulates that all assets included in your project be uploaded before launch, or the release may be rejected. Some of the essential assets and information that must be included are Splash Image, video preview, banner, App Icon, Publisher name, and description. It is also recommended to provide localized versions of artwork and descriptions to make your project appealing and accessible to a wide audience. When all of the project files are ready, you can bundle them into a single .ZIP file and upload them for further testing.
If you want to test your project on a local server before moving it to FB, you have this option. The company provides a test player that can be configured with a bit of effort and attentiveness, after which the game will be playable in a browser. Nevertheless, it is recommended to test your project running on Facebook infrastructure, and you will not need approval before you do this. Just upload the .zip file with the testing build, push it to production, and try it out. At this point, you are free to see how your game runs, and can even share the link with other users to get their opinion of it.
The last step of the process is quite straightforward. Once you are sure that the product is complete, you can go over the recommended Launch checklist and submit the package for review. It should take no longer than a week to get a result, and it is possible to track the progress of your request on the Launch Status page of your developer dashboard. If you prefer to start with one country or avoid global release altogether, the option to select countries can be selected during Launch.
Apart from our brief guide, your go-to resource for bringing your project to fruition will likely be the IG documentation provided by Facebook on its Developers subdomain. In the documents, you can find answers to dozens of questions we did not get to in this article, as well as relevant recommendations, policies, helpful communities, and demos. If these resources prove insufficient, you can always turn to educational videos on Youtube or online courses at Udemy.
From a hardware perspective, you will need at least one computer and several mobile devices (both Android and iOS) to complete your project successfully. The computer will be for writing the code, creating assets, and testing the game, while mobile devices are also crucial for testing. Depending on your preferences, you may also need a local server to test the game on and a hosting service for your backend, if the default one provided by Facebook is not suitable.
From a software perspective, you will need the aforementioned SDK (or an equivalent set of tools), as well as various programs for writing code, creating art, and building other assets. You may also choose to take advantage of various tools for testing graphics and performance, as well as a game engine compatible with the platform.
Although there is no formula for creating the perfect IG that everyone will love, we can point out some of the characteristics that have made the most popular games successful, should you want to use them as an example:
Matchmaking. Adding a system that lets players compete against each other or in a team will boost their engagement.
Result sharing. When a player has a happy and special moment in the game, they often want to share their joy with others. If you give them the option, new people will learn about your work and your user base will grow.
Performance. Nobody wants to wait minutes for a game to load, so you should work on boosting performance to a nimble pace that everyone will enjoy.
Localization. English is a safe option for most games, but adding more language options will bring a bigger audience to your side.
Rewards. Gameplay should feel worthwhile, and rewards are a great way to make it so. You can provide them both during gameplay and use them as something to lure players back to the action.
Most major game projects take a lot of people working together to complete. Thus, even if you have a great idea for an instant game, you may have trouble finding specialists with the experience and knowledge necessary to deliver the project successfully. In these cases, you can always put your trust in a game studio that will do the work for you in the timeframe you specify.
Game-Ace is a development studio with decades of experience in building games, from the smallest web scrollers to major mobile and desktop releases. Our strong team of web and mobile developers makes us well-equipped to build Facebook IGs, and we can draw on our past work in this field to implement the best practices in your project. We will be happy to discuss your next game project with you and set up a partnership that will bring your vision to life. Just contact us and we can get started.