Snap’s big plan to turn Snapchat into a gaming platform

It is inevitable: if a platform is large enough, eventually, it will be compatible with video games. It happened to the iPhone and Facebook, and now it's happening to Snapchat. Early last month, Snap announced its first original game, Bitmoji Party along with a handful of third-party developer titles. It was not exactly an amazing announcement, since games are, overwhelmingly, the most profitable form of the mobile application; Even platforms like Facebook Messenger are trying to enter.

But being successful with a mobile game is difficult, and that challenge only increases as space becomes saturated. The Snap solution? Go in a slightly different direction that relies on the playful person of the company. Will Wu, Snap's product manager and leader of the gaming initiative, believes that this strategy, exemplified by Bitmoji Party will help differentiate the initiative, and it's something that Snap is putting a lot of effort behind. "This is something that we are very excited to pursue relentlessly," says Wu The Verge .

The project began in earnest about two years ago. First, Snap acquired PlayCanvas, creators of an HTML5 gaming engine that would serve as the core of the new company. Then, the company acquired Prettygreat, an Australian studio run by the former leaders of mobile hits Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride . The idea was to internally build some sets of masterpieces to launch the new platform, inspired by a certain Kyoto game maker. "A big part of their strategy was to make games at home," says Prettygreat co-founder Phil Larsen, who also serves as director of Snap Games Studio. "Nintendo has its first teams and they do all the tentpole games that really innovate and drive the platform, and that was our goal."

The first result of those acquisitions is Bitmoji Party a collection of mini-games that was launched last month. Wu qualifies it as "a collaborative experience" among several teams, including Playcanvas, Prettygreat and the group responsible for Bitmoji (which, by the way, are now also being introduced in other games).

According to Wu, one of The benefits of launching a multiplayer game like Bitmoji Party directly on Snapchat is that it reduces friction. For a typical mobile game, if you want to play with friends, everyone has to download the same application and then set up their accounts. If that game is on Snapchat, you do not have to worry about those things, and Bitmoji Party is a game designed to show how easy the process can be. "I really wanted to make a game that almost served as North Star for the kind of experience we were looking for with Snap Games, both for future developers and for our user base," says Wu.

For Snap, there are clear benefits of having a successful game on the platform. This means that users will spend more time on Snapchat and will see more ads along the way. (Currently, there is only one form of monetization in Snap Games: six-second commercials that players can see in exchange for the game currency). But do not expect to see the next Gold Rush in the style of the App Store for the third time. party developers Snap Games is not an open platform; instead, the company is partnering with a small number of developers to offer a more curated selection of games. Currently, that includes everything from large companies like Zynga to smaller studios like Alphabear developer Spry Fox. It seems, Snap serves almost as an editor, working with studios throughout the development process , from conception to launch.

The goal is not & # 39; t to offer a large selection of games; is to create experiences that will serve different communities within Snapchat. There may be a game that you enjoy playing with a specific group of friends and another that works with your family. "We want games for all these unique social situations and social groups," says Larsen. "Having too many games that people can not play or even watch, that does not help or help developers."

Start small and focused seems a good idea. With the overwhelming dominance of free games, mobile devices have become a very busy field, which will soon include new companies such as Apple's upcoming subscription service. Meanwhile, despite its massive scale and multiple attempts, even Facebook has struggled to become a viable gaming platform. In this environment, getting people to play new games, even on a platform they already use, could be a challenge for Snap. But the company hopes to stand out by offering something different. According to Will Eastcott, co-founder of Playcanvas, the focus on seamless multiplayer, along with the playful and ephemeral nature of Snapchat, could lead to unique games that you will not see anywhere else.

"he says." I think you'll see new types of gaming experiences. "

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