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February 21, 2020
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The iMessage is the Medium

by William Volk on 09/19/16 10:14:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

With Apple’s public release of iOS 10 there has been a lot of attention paid to a multitude of new features; Notifications, Decluttered Control Center, Widgets, and improvements to Apple’s Map, Music and News. But the most interesting and far reaching change is the one that most people have overlooked, the addition of an AppStore and 3rd party apps to iMessage.

So sure, you can use cute stickers in a chat, which doesn’t sound like a big deal at first (but it is, stay with me).

There are also apps that run in iMessage.

(iMessage App Store)

Kudos to Andre Plaut for recognizing the value of having apps in iMessage, in his article from May 2016: iOS 10 Concept: iMessage

People exchange much more than just text. I share music through Spotify or Apple Music, I pay my friends through Venmo, I share my location through Find My Friends, I share links through email, I send event invites through calendar. All of that can live under the same umbrella in iMessage.

This is great stuff, but all of that isn’t as important as something so simple, so obvious, that it’s easy to miss the BIG DEAL in all of this.

THE BIG DEAL

The other person doesn’t have to have the sticker or app to see what you have done. If I send an animated dog sticker to my friend, in an iMessage session, they see it. If I run an app in iMessage, they see what the app has done as well … even though they don’t have the app installed on their phone. If they decide they want to do that to, the iMessage app store is just a tap or two away, WITHOUT leaving iMessage.

Why is that important?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SOCIAL APPS AND GAMES?

Think about what happens when I want to share a cute animated puppy or play a game or with a friend, in the context of apps. Ideally they already have the app. Often they don’t. But even if they have the app I have to invite them to run the app (or play the game I want to play with them). Think of the best case scenario, you both have the game.

  1. I have to invite you to play the game. The invite typically appears as a notification on your phone. At that time you may be doing something else.

  2. You have to accept the invite, stop what you are doing, and play the game.

  3. Ironically, during game play (say a word game), we may chat via a game’s own text chat system.

Now add to that the case when my friend doesn’t have the app or game. The invite ideally will take my friend to the app store, they will have to decide to download the game, and then they can play me.

The problem is when they haven’t seen the game before. They are going to have to trust me that it’s great. Or maybe the game is a huge hit and they have it already. That can work. But that still leaves the issue of “do they want to play now?”

And how do I ask them if they want to check out this new game, or cute animated puppies? Well, typically I’m going to send them a text message. On the iPhone I’ll do that with … iMessage.

As a veteran of the video game industry I had assumed that we would have more social mobile games (as opposed to solo ones) because the smartphone is inherently a communications device. When I designed a word game a few years ago, we were forced to add a “random opponent” function because as it turns out, most of the time it’s too much of a pain to setup and play a match with a friend. So you often end up playing with a stranger. Not so much fun.

Now think about how this works in iMessage. Let’s say my friend Sherri wants to invite John to play a quick word game, in this case a game specifically designed to run in iMessage, WordDare. Here’s how that works:

First off John and Sherri are already chatting in iMessage. Here’s what happens with Sherri invited John to play the game.

John just has to tap on that and he’s playing the game (or being asked if he wants to get the game, if he doesn’t have it already. Then they just play the game in the context of iMessage.

During the game play, the rest of iMessage is still there. They can chat (taunt?) with each other.

This sounds like a small detail, the way you invite, start and play a friend (or share an animated puppy sticker), but in my opinion this solves the major issue with social play.

There’s also the viral aspect. Especially with iMessage stickers anyone can enjoy them, even if they don’t have the stickers on their device. When I use these stickers, even with a friend who hasn’t upgraded to iOS 10, they can still see them.

Think of a small game or content developer. If what they have developed is truly valuable, there’s a good chance the early adopters, the people who downloaded the app on day one, are going to show this to friends in iMessage. The “lack of friction” gives the app a great chance of achieving success without the expense of advertising.

And that, to this long time game developer, is the coolest thing of all.

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