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Facebook goes cloud gaming

Facebook’s new cloud gaming platform allows users to play console definition games on their mobile or desktop devices. The big angle: it’s free – provided you have high-speed Internet.

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Earlier this year, Google and Nvidia both threw their cloud gaming hats into the ring, with different pricing approaches. Google charges a flat monthly fee for its Stadia service, while Nvidia charges a little less of its GeForce Now service, provided you own the game on Steam. Now Facebook has entered the cloud gaming space with an odd proposal: it’s free. 

Yesterday, Facebook Gaming launched several cloud-streamed games in the Facebook app for Android and on browser. During its closed beta phase, it amassed 200 000 players across its key regions: the US and Europe. 

Due to the nature of cloud gaming, there’s no download required and they’re instantly playable with high-end graphics. This entrance into the cloud gaming space is building loyalty for those who want to experience cloud gaming but are hesitant to try it out because of the high-quality Internet connection needed to operate it. 

The first set of games available this week includes Asphalt 9: Legends by Gameloft; Mobile Legends: Adventure by Moonton; PGA Tour Golf Shootout by Concrete Software, Inc.; Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale by Qublix Games; and WWE SuperCard by 2K.  

“While we’re thrilled to play a part in the cloud gaming future, that future is a way off,” says Jason Rubin, VP of Play for Facebook. “So before we talk about our aspirations, let me start with what we’re not doing. Cloud gaming announcements are prone to hype, so I’m going to speak openly from the outset. 

“We believe in the long-term future of cloud gaming, but we aren’t going to try to wow you with the wonders of our data centres, compression algorithms, resolutions, or frames per second. Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future.” 

It may seem like Facebook is taking the more ‘casual’ gaming approach – not one that replaces consoles and PC but rather complements them. 

“We love console and PC gaming and both formats will be around for a long time,” says Rubin. “We believe cloud gaming will increase — not replace — the options to jump into great games. We’re not trying to replace your phone either. We think you’ll find that there are times when jumping quickly into a cloud game is a better option, and sometimes it’s not. 

“Cloud gaming is about expanding the types of games we already offer, so we’ll start with the format people enjoy playing on Facebook: free-to-play games. That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting with games typically played on mobile devices. In the future, our systems and infrastructure will improve to deliver more types of games — possibly all types of games. Until then, rest assured that the cost of trying our cloud games is $0.” 

Rubin alludes to the ease of access being the primary factor of Facebook Gaming, namely, no extra hardware or controllers are required to play the games. 

iOS is, however, glaringly missing from the roster, so iPhone users will have to hang on while Facebook and Apple come to an agreement. 

“Even with Apple’s new cloud games policy, we don’t know if launching on the App Store is a viable path,” says Rubin. “Of course, there is always the open Internet, so mobile browsers may wind up being an option, but there are limitations to what we can offer on Safari. While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear. Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource.” 

For now, South Africa is not a launch region but will likely become available here in 2021. Players in supported regions can check out these games on the Facebook app on Android and on web at fb.gg/play.  

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