Facebook's Steam-like Gameroom may be a Trojan horse for social VR

Facebook's Gameroom is now available for hardcore casual gamers.

Facebook is getting serious about games again. The social network just rolled out a standalone, Steam-like solution for casual games called Facebook Gameroom. The new Windows desktop application is now available for anyone running Windows 7 and up, though its true potential may not be realized for a while yet.

Gameroom doesn’t offer anything all that surprising. It’s just a nicer version of the Games bookmark on Facebook and contains most (if not all) the games you can find on the social network. Games are downloaded and saved locally if they have more intensive requirements. Meanwhile, popular web and mobile games like Candy Crush appear to be the web version with Gameroom wrapped around them.

Gameroom uses the Unity engine for all its casual gaming goodness as part of the ongoing partnership between Facebook and Unity Technologies. The two companies have been working together on gaming since 2013.

The story behind the story: A desktop application just for Farmville, Empires and Allies, and Scrabble may seem like a strange—some might say pointless—platform. But there’s likely more to Gameroom than what we’re seeing right now. Gameroom could one day be a gateway to Facebook’s virtual reality social experiences. We received our first glimpse of those in October during the Oculus Connect conference.

Instead of going for another round of 2D Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, Gameroom might one day be a way to play VR poker with your friends in real time. If cards aren’t your thing, other examples of Facebook’s social VR future could include watching movies together in a VR cinema or adventuring to the bottom of the ocean.

For now, that’s all just speculation, but Facebook doesn’t really need a desktop application just for games that are already on the social network. If the company wants to expand virtual reality beyond hardcore PC gaming, however, a Unity-based portal that Facebook owns and controls makes a whole lot of sense.

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Ian Paul

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