Facebook Instant Games platform is broken

It would appear that after reading many reports from Facebook Instant Game developers, new games launched are no longer visible to end users at all. Developers are reporting 0 users for the lifetime of their games even though their games have been reviewed and approved by Facebook and are globally launched.

T took a look through the Facebook Instant Games platform dashboard to see what has changed. It appears that the Facebook App platform option has been removed. As developers know, without this option they cannot submit their game for approval by App Centre and appear in the curated Facebook games list. Whilst App Centre is effectively separate from the Facebook Instant games platform, it does however link into it.

It is my opinion that the missing Facebook App option is the cause of the issue. It has either been removed by mistake for new games (its still available for older games) or Facebook are completely killing visibility of all new games, leaving paid adverts as the only option for visibility. I do hope that Facebook have not gone this route as it will push almost every developer in poor countries off the platform.

My advice for now is to not launch your games until Facebook provide an answer or solution to this issue.

The IGX SDK can help save us all (I hope)

Hello fellow IG devs. With the introduction of the new minimum performance standards rule that is now in place on Facebook Instant Games, many of us (most of us actually) will see our games removed from the platform very quickly. This is a sad day but probably what is needed for the platform to evolve into something better for everyone.

Some time ago I realised that IG was a platform that was incredibly difficult to crack so I wrote a direct replacement of the FBInstant class called IGX SDK. I started this endeavour to enable myself (and others) to deploy our games to web without having to change our code bases. However I took IGX a few steps further and started turning IGX into a common API for the many web portals out there. Using the same IG code you can use IGX to deploy your games to portals such as Kongregate, Crazy Games, Poki and Game Distribution (more coming soon) and use other services such as Google Analytics, PayPal, Xtralife and AdsInPlay. You can even deploy your web games to Android and iOS app stores using the supplied Unity plugin.

The IGX SDK is free and open source and available on Github. The IGX SDK also has an extensive wiki

Want to start getting your games onto web game portals right now? Here are the direct links to the developer portals for all currently supported web game portals:

Good luck everyone and may you live long and prosper.

Support for Poki and localisation added to IGX SDK

Support for the Poki web game portal SDK has been added to the IGX SDK, so you can now deploy your games to Poki using the latest release on Github.

I have also deployed a number of my Facebook Instant games to Crazy Games using the IGX SDK:

Support for collecting the users language has also been added so FBInstant.getLocale() should now return the users browser language.

IGX SDK now provides On Device Debug Console Logging

Deploying HTML5 games that utilise the IGX SDK to mobile feature will now give you access to a debug logging console that you can log text strings to and display on-device. This is great for debugging awkward issues across different devices. The Debugging service is automatically created for you when you create the Unity vendor via default service creation:

if (FBInstant.ext !== undefined) // Make sure that IGX is available

You can now access the debugging services via FBInstant.ext.debug. The following functions are available:

  • FBInstant.ext.debug.clear() – Clears the debug log
  • FBInstant.ext.debug.log(string) – Sends a string to the debug log
  • FBInstant.ext.debug.show(show) – Shows / hides the debug log overlay, show is a boolean that specifies the visible state

IGX – Cross portal and cross platform SDK for web game and instant game developers

IGX stands for Instant Games Extension, it is basically a replacement object for the Facebook Instant Games FBInstant object which enables developers to:

  • Deploy games created that use the Facebook Instant Games API to the web and mobile with little to no code changes
  • Deploy HTML5 web games to mobile
  • Provide a common API across web portals
  • Build instant game features into existing games before deploying to the Instant Games platform, saving valuable time and money
  • Bolster the existing Instant Games platform with new features via FBInstant.ext, such as real time user to user communication

IGX SDK for mobile is now available

Web to mobile

Today I pushed the latest version of the IGX SDK to Github which provides support for deploying IGX SDK compatible games, including Facebook Instant Games and general web games to Android and iOS.

Games are hosted in a web view within Unity 3D. A new library has been provided which plugs into the IGX SDK and communicates between the web view and Unity which provides access to native features such as in-app purchasing and adverts.

Supported features include:

  • Adverts via Unity Ads (Admob is work in progress)
  • In-app purchasing
  • Social login via Game Centre and Google Play Games
  • Leaerboards via Game Centre and Google Play Games
  • Native sharing
  • Analytics via Unity
  • Open external URL’s
  • File uploads
  • Localisation support

The IGX SDK wiki has been updated providing instructions on how to set up a Unity project to host your game and content.

Below is an example of a deployed Facebook Instant Game which has been deployed to Android and iOS stores:

Who is the IGX SDK for?

The IGX SDK is for web and and Facebook Instant Game developers that would like an easy route to take their products from web to mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. IGX provides an alternative solution to the likes of Cordova, PhoneGap and CocoonJS.

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.