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.