Facebook has become the latest tech giant to throw its hat into the cloud gaming ring, with the announcement today that Facebook Gaming has launched some cloud-streamed games on Facebook, available via the browser and the app.
Rival cloud-streaming game services are already offered by Google Stadia, the recently announced Amazon Luna, and the Microsoft service formerly known as xCloud (now a part of Game Pass Ultimate), among others. Facebook's new service won't be getting its own grand-sounding banner, however, and will just be an otherwise unnamed facet of Facebook Gaming. This isn't the only way that Facebook aims to break with cloud gaming tradition, either.
Jason Rubin, Facebook's VP of Play, writes in the announcement blog post that he's "going to speak openly from the outset" because "Cloud gaming announcements are prone to hype". In an attempt to learn from the mistakes of other, similar services—which have often been criticised for 'overpromising' compared to their capabilities at launch—Facebook intend to take it slow, with a starting line-up that focuses on mobile games in a limited selection of genres. Of course, the service is only in beta, and the plan is absolutely for the selection of games on offer to expand over the coming months.
The big draw for Facebook Gaming's new service when compared to its competitors, however, is that (for the time being at least) all the games on offer are going to be free-to-play. In-app purchases are enabled from the get-go, but there are no associated up-front costs. Rubin's blog makes it clear that Facebook have not forgotten that their gaming reputation was built on a foundation of browser games, so it's hardly surprising that the launch titles (namely Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA TOUR Golf Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur's Tale, WWE SuperCard, and Dirt Bike Unchained) are cut from similar cloth.
It's been a busy few days for Facebook Gaming, as a controversial suggestion that Oculus 2 users who owned multiple headsets could see their Facebook accounts banned and their gaming purchases rendered inaccessible was followed by a hasty retraction. The announcement of this new cloud-streaming gaming service comes mere hours after that confusion was (somewhat) cleared up.
Facebook Gaming's new service is being rolled out in beta in the US at the moment, with California, Texas, and several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states initially included. (A full list is available on the announcement blog post.) There are currently plans to extend the service across the rest of the US; no mention has yet been made of an international release, although it'd be very surprising if that wasn't the intention sooner or later.