Facebook’s launch of a new set of games, called Instant Games, available for play both on the core Facebook platform and its spun-off Messenger app, is a new step but also a bit of a throwback for the social network.
Facebook beta-launched 17 games, including old school titles like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, which can be played in app, whether the user is on a desktop, laptop or, more likely, a mobile device.
While Facebook’s sharing and communications utilities are what made it the cultural juggernaut that it is, gaming has played an outsized part in its history, contributing a significant amount of its revenue in the early days, when it was still experimenting with ways to unlock the advertising potential of the platform.
A survey by AYTM suggests that game-playing is still a widespread activity on Facebook. AYTM found that almost half of social network users said they played games on social platforms at least occasionally, and half of those said they did so regularly. While the survey didn’t ask about gaming on specific platforms, Facebook users predominated the survey group—92% of those who said they used social networks were on Facebook.
The AYTM survey suggests that, at least at the moment, user interest in playing games on a social platform is not likely to change much. When asked if they were likely to play a social game in the next year, 38.7% said they probably wouldn’t —almost the same number who said they had never played a social game.
Some 15% of the time users spend on Facebook is devoted to games, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, and games generate $45 million in monthly revenue, down from $65 million in December 2011, according to a Piper Jaffray estimate.
At that level, games make up only small slice of Facebook’s overall revenue. Most gaming revenues are accounted for in Facebook’s financials as “payments and other.” eMarketer estimates that such revenues will make up less than 3% of the company’s total this year. That revenue mix is not projected to change much over the next two years.