Is Snapchat Launching a Gaming Platform?

As Instagram continues to absorb its user base, Snapchat may be testing its luck among a new market: game developers. A new report by The Information claims that Snapchat is developing its own in-app gaming platform, planned for release later this year. The platform will offer games made by third party developers, to be downloaded via a built-in app store and played exclusively within Snapchat. According to the report, at least one development company is already on board, and a game is in the works.

Snapchat’s apparent new venture follows the company’s mid-June release of Snap Kit, a platform for third party developers that grants use of bitmoji, stickers and other native features. The recent purchase of browser-based 3D dev tool Playcanvas by Snapchat also appears less coincidental in light of The Information’s report; Playcanvas enables easy generation of detailed 3D environments, and is designed to run best on low-power devices.

While it’s unclear as to whether games released on the platform will center around augmented reality, an AR-focused gaming hub wouldn’t be Snapchat’s first foray into AR gaming. Last April, the company launched “Snappables,” a series of lenses for playing games that use touch, motion and facial expressions as controls.

As a strategic move, the gaming hub could prove effective at carving out a deeper niche for the AR features offered by Snapchat’s in-app camera. The market for mobile AR games is lucrative, with a value predicted to rise to $284 billion in five years. Beyond AR, a gaming platform could encourage users to engage longer with the app, as games would be playable without leaving Snapchat. This feature could potentially compete with established app markets like the IOS app store or Google Play, especially when it comes to social gaming.

If Snapchat’s gaming platform comes to pass, it may likely mirror that of WeChat, a multipurpose messaging and social media app developed by Chinese digital services company Tencent. The Information’s report notes that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has previously complimented Tencent’s business model, which derives a large portion of its revenue — around 40% — from purchases made on WeChat’s in-app game store.

With Instagram users outnumbering Snapchat faithful five to one (1 billion vs. 250 million), and Snapchat’s shares decreasing due to a decline in user engagement times, the time may be opportune for a Snapchat-based game platform. If Snapchat games manage to offer an incentive for using the app over its rivals, it could generate the momentum needed to slow — or even stop — the company’s apparent decline.