Facebook wants to prove that it can offer up more compelling video game experiences than the likes of Farmville and Candy Crush Saga. The site’s campaign to win over gamers began in earnest with the acquisition of Oculus in 2014, and now it’s taking another step forward with the official launch of its PC gaming platform, dubbed Facebook Gameroom.
The Gameroom app — available to download on Windows 7 and up — allows users to play native games, web titles, and mobile ports in one convenient location, separate from the company’s flagship social network. Think of it as Facebook’s take on Valve’s Steam platform, albeit for less hardcore gamers.
First announced in May, Gameroom later saw Facebook extend its relationship with Unity Technologies, the company responsible for the Unity cross-platform game engine.
Fittingly, the official announcement was made on Tuesday at Unity’s Unite game development conference in Los Angeles. Facebook support for Unity — allowing developers to publish their games on the app — is available in the Gameroom developer beta. Facebook support will also ship as part of Unity 5.6 early next year.
A select group of developers were given access to a closed alpha build of this functionality in August, and more are expected to be added to the program on an ongoing basis.
Lots of big-name titles use Unity (including games as diverse as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Firewatch, Superhot, and Monument Valley) so making it easy to publish games to Facebook using the engine certainly makes sense in terms of starting up a gaming platform. However, there are restrictions in terms of the size of the games that can be hosted on the service (titles can’t be larger than 200MB, although Facebook may make exceptions for games up to 500MB on a case-by-case basis). Therefore, there are limitations to the type of fare you will find on Gameroom.
Ever since Facebook acquired Oculus, there have been questions about the company’s gaming strategy. Today’s developments give some insight into its approach: work with developers to make sure publishing games to Facebook is straightforward, then set about building up a platform that can be targeted at a particular sector of the gaming market.
Updated on 11-02-2016 by Saqib Shah: Added news of official announcement of Facebook Gameroom.