Facebook Cloud Gaming Is A Bit Different

Facebook's new cloud gaming service is focusing on free-to-play mobile games, at least for the time being.

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Facebook has announced its own cloud gaming service, with streaming games playable through the Facebook app and in a browser. The beta includes both full playable games and what Facebook is calling "cloud playable ads" that allow players to immediately try out a demo of a game.

The selection is limited so far to a handful of games, and Facebook is open about its limitations. For now the first set includes Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA Tour Golf Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur's Tale, and WWE Supercard. Facebook says it's focusing on free-to-play mobile games to lean into its existing strengths. It also chose specific genres--sports, card, sim, and strategy games--to help mitigate any possible latency issues. It is also implementing Player Names and game-themed avatars to use instead of your standard Facebook profile image.

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But Facebook is issuing more caveats than the ambitious statements put out by companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. In its announcement, it says that cloud gaming is a long-term future, but it "still has a way to go" and the company doesn't want to over-promise. It also says that it's not trying to replace PC or console gaming formats, instead just offering an option for when it makes sense to jump into games quickly. Stadia's approach, in particular, has been criticized for its full-priced game approach.

Facebook is not launching this initiative as a separate service--its cloud games will be available through the Facebook interface itself. It's also not launching on iOS for the time being, with Facebook saying it isn't sure if the App Store is a viable path. It does cite mobile browsers as an option, but overall says Apple "continues to exert control over a very precious resource."

The initial rollout will begin in California, Texas, and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia.

The marketplace for cloud gaming has been getting increasingly competitive, with services now offered or in the works from Microsoft's Xbox division, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna. Each of those have focused on bringing the big-budget AAA game experience to streaming formats, though, so Facebook's mobile approach at least marks a distinction from that heavy-hitter battleground.

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