Last month, representatives from Tombola Arcade and Tombola International attended the White Nights conference in the Czech Republic – one of the worlds largest get-togethers for the game industry. As delegates of Tombola, we were mostly excited to see the presentations on Facebook’s Instant Games, the Social Casino trends and what problems other companies had solved whilst developing their games.
In this post, I’ll try to summarise the main points from the conference and what I found the most interesting.
TLDR; Instant Games / Games in messenger platforms are becoming a big thing and suit our community-esque-vibe perfectly and slot machines are changing, innovative companies are creating whole new categories of slot machines to entice players.
Firstly this started with a particularly interesting talk from the CEO of CoolGames about their use of Facebook Instant Games – a newly added feature in the Facebook messenger platform.
Users can click on the games tab in the app and play one of the many 3rd party HTML5 games that Facebook has to offer. The basic premise of this is to provide a way to allow users to play games socially with not only their friends, but with other Facebook users as well. This is very interesting because playing socially with friends according to Facebook can give a 2 – 3x retention than if they were to be playing alone. The social model also fits the Tombola brand itself especially because of the community of users we have built.
One of the benefits with Instant Games is that users can, in theory, click a game in the list, download a small game (less than 10mb is the recommendation so far and we’re even seeing this recommendation in VK.com – the Russian social media giant) and instantly be given the ability to play a game with friends. This file size, however, doesn’t seem to be a hard limitation so far. As mentioned in one of the talks, they had been optimising game sizes with things like code splitting (which you get out of the box with Webpack) and only pulling down required assets and code when needed. Facebook is even talking about caching the last few games played to make the games even more “instant”.
Another one of the key benefits of Instant Games is the potential for virality. CoolGames had a case study based on their release of Snake for Instant Games and in the end it had reached over 600 million unique game plays in total through the platform (which is no surprise with the potential footfall of Facebook’s 2 billion users and Messengers 1.6 billion users accessing games through the various entry points that Instant Games exposes). The app store or the “app tap” is no longer the entry point. Now, you’ll have multiple social entry points to help push users to games. This includes the games tab in Messenger, the game page, and chat thread updates.
Finally, in my opinion, one of the biggest benefits to Instant Games is the “GameBot”: a chat bot that gets associated with your game and gives you the ability to message users who have previously played. It allows for user re-engagement, game notifications and more. According to Facebook, so far 47% of sessions from new users are initiated from in-thread updates, i.e. gamebot messages have started 47% of all Instant Game sessions. Some examples we’re seeing it being used for so far are simply a marketing bot for user re-engagement or to notify players when daily bonus games are happening or even as a way of telling players that it’s their turn in a turn based game.
It’s also worth noting that Disney and SEGA have already jumped onto the bandwagon and are soon to be releasing their own Facebook Instant Games.
Slot Based Games
There was a couple of interesting takes from a few talks about this subject. The main one was the change in direction some companies are taking when it comes to innovating in the slot-based games area. Gone are the days of simple pay-and-play slot machines.
There’s been rise on more story or skill-based slot machines coming into the industry, MURKA’s games, for example, where users are seen to walk through multiple levels instead of playing one skin over-and-over.
We also saw a pretty cool example of Pirate Kings by Jelly Button Games, which is a wheel-based slot game that allows players to spin a wheel to earn gold, to attack players to steal their gold, or gain shields to defend themselves. With the gold earned, players can advance further in the game by purchasing upgrades for their islands. It’s an interesting and more gamified version of the standard slot machine you see floating around.
Finally, one of the more extreme alternatives we saw was a multiplayer based slot machine named Pop! Slots where users could walk around a virtual casino with an avatar and jump into a slot machine game. When a bonus round was reached by one of the players, all the players would be given a chance to jump in and play, allowing them to gain individual bonuses as well as team bonuses. So the better the team did, the better the overall bonus was.
Slot machines represent around 80% of the market, so it’s no wonder we’re seeing new and interesting takes on this old game style.
To conclude, there were many great talks at the two-day conference, but the two above were the most interesting talks that I felt were the most relevant to Tombola.
It’s clear that social media has had a huge influence on the creation of instant games, and it might be something we consider in the future. This platform is interesting because of the social aspect of the games, the sheer footfall provided by Facebook, the retention rate, and the ease of access. Imagine being able to play a live bingo or arcade game with your friends just through your messenger app on your phone.
Additionally, the changing trends of slot machines is an equally interesting point taken from the conference. The fact that companies are now trying to innovate in this area and change up the market to give themselves a lead over other competitors shows that sticking with the same model of slot machine might not always be the best option.