Alongside Oculus VR and livestreams, Facebook’s gaming ambitions also include the cloud. Today, the company is making free game streaming available to 98 percent of the mainland US and bringing on board a major partner in Ubisoft. Facebook says it has now scaled-up its cloud computing infrastructure to the extent that it can roll out the service to 100 percent of the US by the fall. An international rollout is also underway, beginning in Canada and Mexico and expanding to Western and Central Europe by early 2022.
While its rivals Google and Amazon have opted for standalone cloud gaming for a monthly subscription, Facebook has built its offering into its main social network and accompanying Android app. Unlike the competition, which deliver console and PC games over the internet, the social network is focusing on smaller free-to-play mobile titles that it says are easier to host at its data centers.
After launching cloud gaming on Android in a handful of US states last October, Facebook says it has added 25 titles to the service, including newcomers Roller Coaster Tycoon Touch by Atari, Lego Legacy Heroes Unboxed and Dragon Mania Legends by Gameloft and State of Survival by FunPlus. It’s also redesigned its Play section with new categories, including a list of the top games in the US, improved filtering and sorting options.
More than 1.5 million people play cloud-streamed games on Facebook every month, the company revealed. With 195 million daily users in North America and more than 1.87 billion global users on Facebook proper, the service has a big runway ahead of it. Despite offering less games than the competition, Facebook will be hoping that its focus on mobile titles can help it to thrive in the lucrative game streaming arena. The cloud gaming market will be worth an estimated $1.4 billion this year and over $5 billion in 2023, according to research firm NewZoo.
To bolster its appeal, Facebook is partnering with France-based developer Ubisoft. The studio’s game subscription service is already available on Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, but (for now at least) Facebook will only host its mobile gaming titles. Ubisoft games available on the service include Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, Hungry Shark Evolution and Hungry Dragon, with Mighty Quest and Trials Frontier launching in the coming months. Facebook also recently acquired Unit 2, the developer behind game creation platform Crayta, with plans to integrate its tools into its cloud gaming platform.
On the infrastructure side, Facebook is focusing on lowering latency caps to allow it to distribute more game genres across multiple devices. Currently, it says its “sweet spot” is in mobile sports, card, simulation, strategy, action-adventure, and puzzle titles, but it plans to add more variety to the mix in the coming months.
Facebook says it is still working to get cloud gaming onto iOS devices. Though its gaming app is available on iPhones and iPads, it doesn’t include playable games due to Apple’s restrictions on third-party software.
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