Facebook Instant Games hits Personality Quizzes with the Ban Hammer

As of yesterday apps defined as personality quizzes on Facebook Instant Games have been limited to prevent their virality, which is basically the death knell for these self gratification apps. If you have written one of these apps (like me) then how will the changes affect your app? You will no longer have access to the users profile photo, their connected friends or the ability to switch to any of your other apps. As these apps rely heavily on the users profile picture being heavily featured to personalise the content it makes these apps even more useless than they were previously.

Its sad news, but developers have been enraged by these personality quiz apps appearing on Instant Games and polluting the very idea behind Instant Games. That said, there should be a place for personality quiz apps because there is huge demand for them, so please Facebook, create an Instant Apps :) .

One major positive that has come out of this is that the many developers filling their personality quiz apps with unlicensed imagery will finally stop profiting off the back of other peoples work! For that reason alone it also time for celebration.

Whilst the title says “ban hammer”, I was being being a little creative. These apps are not currently banned, however Facebook are updating their policies to get rid of them, so they will be banned in due course.

Is Facebook Instant Games Dying or Evolving?

A few weeks ago something strange happened over at Facebook Instant Games HQ. For me it was a delight and for other game developers it was a nightmare. Some developers received a big boost in new users whilst others saw a large reduction in new users. Things returned to normal after a few days but then I noticed that new users being pushed to all 14 of my Facebook Instant Games were gradually falling off, fast forward to a few days ago and new users to all of my games are being completely shut down. As of today I have now lost around 90% of my new users. This is somewhat alarming when you consider the effort and money that one has invested into Facebook Instant Games.

So I started doing a little digging as the Facebook Instant Games team are rarely forthcoming with information regarding big internal changes to game distribution. My first stop is of course this great resource. Instantintel provides current and historical stats on all Facebook Instant Games so we can see what is happening to the market. By looking at each individual game we can get a good idea of whats going on. Lets take a look at some of the top games:

Ludo Club – Lost around 2 million players since March
Helix Ball – Lost around 1 million players since March
Words with Friends – Lost around 1 million players since March

Even the great Everwing has lost over half of its user base since end of 2018, although I blame this on Everwing losing its golden boy status due to the arrival of quiz apps with user numbers that shot out of orbit.

Most other top chart games are also losing users hand over fist. Some new games lower down the charts are still managing to pull in new users probably due to boosting and featuring. One game does seem to be holding its users and defying the trend however and that is Quiz Planet. WHy? I have no idea, maybe they spend heavily on ads? Or maybe the game is just perfect for the audience?

Note that I have not included the quiz apps as these are mostly driven users from an external source and not Facebook Instant Games itself.

Lets examine what has changed at Facebook Instant Games to see if we can figure out whats going on.

  • Messenger bots became user opt in around the start of 2019. A lot of games starting seeing a sharp fall at this point
  • The appearance of quiz apps Q4 of 2018. This does not seem to be a significant factor

So it looks like NOT spamming users using bots to remind them to come back and play pretty much makes Facebook Instant Games a dead platform for traditional games. Why? Well, Facebook isn’t hip, its not the “in” thing, its for us oldies as my kids put it, so until our kids generation reach the ages 30+ they won’t be playing Facebook Instant Games. It also appears that many users that do use Facebook have either the attention span of a gnat or have more important grown up things to do :) .

Can any of this be fixed? Well we can start by evolving game play and moving away from traditional games, aiming more at a mature somewhat narcissistic audience. What sort of games? I’m still working on that one but if I strike gold I will be sure to let you know how :) .

The final question, why are pond life games such as mine being squeezed out? My guess is that the pie of users has shrank and is still shrinking, so Facebook Instant Games are scraping the bottom for food to push to its partners games. This would also explain why the boost that all games receive has been shrank down to a few thousand users on launch.

What is the future of Facebook Instant Games with its environment of bad discovery and low retention? I think if the platform and the games it serves do not evolve then it will become a platform of quiz apps, which it pretty much already is right now.

Facebook Instant Game Tutorials Live

Spent some spare time over the last few weeks noting down information that I do not want to forget regarding Facebook Instant Games development. I’ve been away from it for a bit and plan to spend more time away from it so want a nice easy reference for when I return.

I decided to turn my notes into a bunch of Facebook Instant Game tutorials to help other budding game developers out there.

You can read the tutorials here.

The individual links to each are:

I will cover more topics when I return.

Facebook Instant Games gets its first hard core porn app!

Its well known in the Facebook Instant Game developer community that Facebook Instant Games is a bit of a wild west. In the beginning god created…, just kidding :D . In the beginning some developers were taking well known web games and just dumping them onto IG to earn a quick buck, eventually the copyright holders arrived to the platform and got many of them taken down.

After this phase of stupidity, along came blatant ripping off of well known IP such as Pokemon, Mario, PUBG, Minecraft etc.., this is still prevalent today. You would think this would be limited to just small developers that don’t have much to lose if sued, but unfortunately it is not. The top app on Facebook Instant Games is called OMG, with around 130 million users and it uses well known questionable imagery from many movies, stars and musicians. Facebook however adopt the position that it is ok to use copyrighted materials and will not remove games and apps that use them unless the copyright holders complain.

Today Facebook Instant Games took a new turn with the arrival of Huber, which is basically a hard core porn version of OMG. I’m not against porn, but I am against it ending up in the hands of young kids. The app should really be restricted to 18+ but a fellow developer confirmed that it is searchable from their child’s phone.

The big question is, how did a hard core porn app make it through the Facebook Instant Games review process without an 18 restriction slapped on it? Well, very little is known about the review process, we have no idea if the process is done by AI or humans so who knows. The issue with the Facebook Instant Games review process is you submit an app or game with relatively harmless material but can change the material after the review process. Many of these OMG style apps host the visual content on their server with the Facebook or Messenger app basically acting as a web browser. This enables the developer to change the content on their server at any point in time with no review process. So basically its very easy to circumvent the review process.

Hopefully Facebook pull up their socks and slap an 18+ on this app and any others like it so kiddies can’t get a hold of it.

How can this issue be resolved? It can be resolved very easily by blocking access to external imagery so that all imagery has to be included with the zip file when the app is submitted to Facebook Instant Games. In addition, app updates will likely have to be reviewed for new developers. Existing developers that have developed a level of trust should be able to bypass the update review process.