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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  Mobile Messengers: A new platform for casual gamers
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Mobile Messengers: A new platform for casual gamers

Social networking tools such as Facebook and Hike allow users to play games on their messenger apps

Facebook came up with the Chess game in January. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/MintPremium
Facebook came up with the Chess game in January. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Mobile messengers are no longer about catching up with a friend, or sending a funny image or sharing a video. It is slowly entering into the arena of online multi-player gaming. Though the games that you get on them are very basic, what is notable is that they are easily accessible and free to play.

The quest for new features

With WhatsApp (900 million monthly active users) and Facebook Messenger (800 million monthly active users) owning the lion’s share of active users, rival services such Viber, Line and WeChat have been experimenting to make a mark in the messenger ecosystem. Gaming is the latest stratagem that they are counting upon. Services such as Line and Kakao Talk have had tremendous success in recent past and games have played an important role in it. Line Messenger is the leading messenger service in Japan with user base of 68million. Similarly, Kakao Talk, with a user base of 40 million, is bigger than even Facebook Messenger in South Korea.

Gaining popularity among users quickly

Facebook came up with the Doodle Draw Game on its official messenger app in June 2015 and a Chess game in January. These games are secretly tucked away and won’t show until you type in the keyword that opens them. For example, to play chess with friends users have to type ‘@fbchess play’ in an ongoing chat. Similarly, to play the recently added basketball game users need to copy a basketball emoji into an ongoing chat and tap on the emoji. The basketball game was added in March only and in less than a month’s time it garnered 700 million gameplays worldwide.

Hot on the heels of Facebook, an Indian startup Hike recently rolled out a bundle of games for Hike users in beta version in March 2016. The games are placed under a category within Hike, involves no download cost and the file size for all five game is just 3MB. Even though the games offered are mostly old classics such as Snake, Solitaire, Chess, Word Rush and Sudoko, the platform has received positive response and recorded more than 100 million gaming sessions in less than a month.

Is this a new era for Messengers

Mobile gaming is growing. According to Entertainment Software Associations’ report, released in April 2015, 35% of gamers access games on mobile devices. Mobile messengers are trying to make the most of mobile platform by offering games in an even more attractive package, which takes up less space and resources on the phone and allows users to play with their friends at will. This would allow messengers to stop existing users from leaving and encourage more users to join. They can add in-game purchases in the games at any time and make them monetarily viable too.

Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO, Hike Messenger feels apps will be obsolete and will be replaced by games on social networks. “Apps will go the CD way and will be obsolete in the next few years. And then messaging will do for mobile what the browser did for the desktop. This is especially true in a country like India," he adds.

What is in store for users

Smartphones are easily accessible and a lot more affordable. Classics like Snakes, Chess and Solitaire do not hog resources and are quite fun to play.

“The convenience of not having to download yet another app to play with friends and the availability of bite-sized games is a huge plus," adds Mittal.

This is quite true to some extent. Games on messengers make a lot of sense for users who have basic smartphones with limited storage. For them an @fbchess and Sudoku makes more sense than downloading an Angry Bird game, which also takes up more than 100MB of storage after installation.

The emergence of games on messengers is likely to create a new category of gamers developed for casual gamers who spend a lot of time on social networks. This will do away with the need to download separate app.

For now though, a serious gamer has no alternative to mobile apps.

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Abhijit Ahaskar
Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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Updated: 13 Apr 2016, 04:32 PM IST
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