Here we go again. The latest big tech company that fancies their chances with cloud gaming is Facebook, who've revealed their approach to it all today. Refreshingly, it's pretty different to Google Stadia or Amazon Luna. In fact, it doesn't even have a fancy name. Facebook's plan is simply just to release a bunch of free-to-play cloud-streamed games in the app and on browser, some of which have already launched.
The first set of mobile games available to stream through Facebook from today include Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA Tour Golf Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale, and WWE SuperCard. They're all free-to-play sports, card or simulation games at the moment. The point is to keep it simple for now, and add "latency-tolerant games" like these so they can get to grips with how it should all work.
"We’re not going to overpromise and under-deliver," Facebook's vice president of play Jason Rubin says.
"We believe in the long-term future of cloud gaming, but we aren’t going to try to wow you with the wonders of our data centers, compression algorithms, resolutions, or frames per second. Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future."
Facebook has always had free games like Farmville (which is actually shutting down this December) and the like, so it's actually kind of nice to see them stick with what they know, even if it is just for now.
Rubin mentions that starting off this cloud gaming stuff is a way for them to expand the types of games they already have on offer, though he also makes clear that this isn't a massive spin-off service designed to replace your console or PC.
"All cloud-streamed games are playable in the same way you play games now on Facebook whether it’s in our Gaming tab or from News Feed," he says. "No special hardware or controllers needed; your hands are the controller since we’re launching with native mobile games. And you can play these games with a mouse and keyboard on desktop."
The blog post is interesting. It has kinda similar vibes to that one Microsoft did recently about "app store principles" that was a blatant jab at some of Apple's shadier practices. In the Facebook post it just feels very much like they're trying to say, 'look, this is a simple service, we aren't pulling a Google Stadia'.
So, Facebook's cloud gaming isn't really a new thing, more like an extension of what the site already offers. They're still looking for it to grow, Rubin says, but not become some super hyped thing like other companies have tried to do.They're not ruling out exclusives, though.
"We’re not trying to lock people in. We don’t need to because we’re not charging a fee to try these games and you’re on Facebook already. An exclusive in the classic sense — i.e. you can only play this game on the platform — probably doesn’t make sense for us," he told The Verge. "I think exclusives will happen, but it’s not something we need."
Facebook's cloud gaming is currently in beta, and is only rolling out in certain states in the US for now. Over the next few months they're looking to branch out to more regions, and early next year they plan on adding different genres of games, too.
So it looks like their approach to cloud gaming will be a bit simpler, at least, than their approach to VR. Facebook made headlines last week after managing to lock a load of Oculus Quest 2 owners out of their accounts thanks to some overzealous moderation. Annoyingly, all Oculus headsets will soon require a Facebook account to function at all, which, as Katharine says, sucks.