Now that a week has passed since Facebook bought WhatsApp for $18 billion, it’s time for our obligatory post about it.

Just to get it out of the way, I have no clue why Facebook bought WhatsApp for this amount.  My guess is that Facebook’s social network is dying (especially among teens) but its ad platform is revolutionary.  Buying WhatsApp and its 450 million global users enables Facebook to remain on top for mobile and ads, though given WhatsApp owns no real data on its users, that’s in theory.  Mark Zuckerberg is far smarter and more successful than I, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

What does WhatsApp have to do with games?  Absolutely nothing.  But, messaging and chat could be the next big thing in games, Facebook and WhatsApp notwithstanding.

WhatsApp really has nothing to do with games.  Just look at the famous handwritten note between WhatsApp founders.




WhatsApp has no interest in games, and the founders believe that this is partly the secret to their success.  Given they just sold their company for $18 billion, they could be right.

Or maybe not.  Every other major messaging app company in the world has embraced games distribution and have grown in distribution and revenues based on in app purchases:

  • Line:  350 million monthly active users (MAUs) and $338 million in revenues in 2013, dominant in Japan
  • KaoKao: 100 million MAUs, dominant in South Korea
  • WeChat: 270 million MAUs, and owned by Tencent, the leading game and Internet company in China

Moreover, these messenger platforms are the kingmakers for Android games in their respective countries.  If you want to be a Top 10 app on Google Play in Japan and Korea, you have to go through Line and KaoKao.  

In the US, Tango has embraced the game distribution model popular in Asia.  And Kik, with 130 million MAUs, is a leader in Web-based HTML5 style games (more of that in my next blog post).

A more interesting development is the imminent public launch of Layer, winners of Techcrunch Disrupt 2013, which is providing an API to enable any app to add chat, video, and voice in a few lines of code.  Currently in limited testing, when it does launch, Layer will allow any game app to add its own messaging network easily.  

Many game apps already enable chat.  Big Fish Casino in particular does an awesome job of integrating chat with gameplay, distinguishing itself from other social casino apps which are more or less the same.

The most popular mobile games are just as popular as the world’s biggest messenger apps (if not more). Imagine if Candy Crush Saga integrated messaging via Layer.  It could become both the world’s most popular mobile game and one of the biggest mobile messaging platforms overnight.

Will mobile games integrate chat and messaging into their apps? And does it even make sense? It will probably work well with some games and poorly with others.  But with the ability to add chat, video, and voice in a few lines of codes, many game companies will try it.  A startup like Layer could be far more interesting to the future of game design than Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp.

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