Snapchat Launches In-App Gaming Platform

Courtesy of Snap Inc.

Snap Games, launching today, allows users to access real-time, multiplayer games without downloading or installing new software.

Snapchat is the latest technology company to make a major move into the video game space. 

The social media company joined the likes of Google and Apple on Thursday with the launch of Snap Games at its Snap Partner Summit in West Hollywood. As part of the company's move into gaming, it has tapped Luke Muscat, the designer behind mobile title Fruit Ninja, as creative director of the Snap game studio. 

Snap Games, accessed through the chat feature, allows users to access real-time, multiplayer games made in-house and by mobile game developers Zynga and ZeptoLab, among others. No download or installation is necessary for Snap Games as it runs directly through the app. 

"Friendship is more than just the things you chat about. Friendship is also about experiences you have together," Will Wu, director of product and head of Snap Games, said during the summit's opening keynote.

Wu noted that, despite the "hundreds of thousands" of games available for mobile phones, "there aren't many that make it easy for friends to play together."

The new gaming platform first took shape when Snapchat's in-house team developed their first game, titled Bitmoji Party. The game is accessed through the chat section of the app and allows players to invite the friends they were chatting with to join. Once inside the game, players come to life as 3D Bitmoji and can compete against one another in mini-games with names like Pool Party, Kick Off, Spin Session and Zombie Escape. Players can text or voice chat directly through the game.

Following the internal development of Bitmoji Party, Snap then courted third-party developers to build games exclusively for Snap Games. The platform will launch with six separate titles: Alphabear Hustle from Spry Fox, a cooperative word game featuring "cute bears" and customizable personal villages; C.A.T.S. (Crash Arena Turbo Stars) Drift Race from ZeptoLab, a multiplayer racing game for up to six players; Snake Squad from Game Closure, a battle royale version of the classic Snake mobile game; Tiny Royale from Zynga, a battle royale shooter; Zombie Rescue Squad from PikPok, a multiplayer zombie survival game; and the aforementioned Bitmoji Party

Because these games are connected to the Snapchat chat function, gameplay is limited to a person's social circles. Each developer will determine the number of players it supports at one time. Bitmoji Party, for example, supports up to eight players. Additional friends can watch and comment as spectators, later rotating into the different mini-games. 

Last month, Google pulled back the curtain on its long-rumored video game streaming service, Stadia, at the GDC conference in San Francisco. Less than a week later, Apple touted its own plans to make a major leap into gaming with Apple Arcade, a subscription game service that is working with developers such as Konami, Annapurna Interactive and Devolver Digital, among many others.

Snapchat’s entree into the gaming world makes the Venice-based company just the latest to throw their hat in the ring of the fastest-growing entertainment medium in the world. Last year, digital revenue from video games topped $43 billion worldwide, and 2019 is expected to deliver an even larger number.

At launch, Snap will monetize these games through its standard nonskippable, six-second ad unit. These will be presented as opt-ins for gamers, who could then receive boosts or other advantages in exchange for watching the ads. 

"Each of our partners have designed and engineered these games exclusively for Snapchat," said John Imah, who leads games partnerships for Snap. "But we want to give our partners more than just an audience. We're also launching a new ad experience within games so that all of our partners will see monetization from day one. Over time, we'll be looking to expand the revenue potential as we work together." 

During the keynote, Snapchat also announced a slate of 10 new original shows, including a daily entertainment news program from BuzzFeed.