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Business

Japanese gaming companies lend a hand to Facebook

Developers have big incentive -- access to a billion-plus users

Silicon Valley-based Blackstorm Labs' "EverWing" is among the games released on Facebook's Instant Games feature. (Courtesy of Blackstorm Labs)

JAKARTA -- Facebook wants users to spend more time with it, and Japanese gaming companies are lending a hand.

The social media giant on Tuesday in California launched Instant Games, a feature that allows games to be played on its Messenger app and Facebook News Feed without users having to download an app to their smartphones. Seventeen games are already available via the new feature, including titles like "Pac-Man" and "Galaga" from Bandai Namco and "Track & Field" from Konami. Taito has also licensed developers to distribute classics like "Space Invaders" and "Arkanoid" via the new feature.

Blackstorm Labs will also provide "Puzzle Bobble Blitz," a re-imagined version of the classic Taito title "Puzzle Bobble." (Courtesy of Blackstorm Labs)

To maximize advertising revenue and maintain its high growth rate, Facebook needs its users stay on the platform as long as possible, especially now, amid the hubbub over fake news having been spread via Facebook ahead of the U.S. presidential election. The backlash has some users vowing to spend less time on social media.

Facebook has repeatedly said that its ad-load -- the number of ads Facebook can put in a user's timeline -- will soon reach a ceiling. The hope is that allowing users to more easily access games will keep them from leaving the site or its apps.

The feature also provides opportunities to game developers, according to Ernestine Fu, co-founder of Silicon Valley-based Blackstorm Labs. The startup is providing two games for Instant Games, including the in-house developed "EverWing."

"Being able to test and scale it out to a billion [Facebook users] immediately is something that we have found very compelling," Fu said. "Being able to tap on the game, in a conversation you are already having with a friend ... and immediately start playing a game, or when you are scrolling through your Facebook feed or friend's feed, tap on something and instantly start playing the game that your friend was just playing, I think that has huge benefits from [an] engagement/downloads standpoint."

She noted a headache Instant Gaming could give developers -- it requires "cutting-edge knowledge of HTML5 and Java script, which is very tough for most of the developers today."

Fu added that Blackstorm is planning to launch a set of developer tools to simplify the process of building games for Facebook Instant Games.

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