Viber has added a social games platform to its mobile messaging services as it looks to further expand and monetise the products it offers users.
Three games have been rolled out for Android and iOS in five countries so far, with a global rollout planned for next year. The launch countries are Belarus, Malaysia, Israel, Singapore and Ukraine.
The approach is similar to that taken by Asian messaging app players LINE and Kakao, both of which have been able to generate significant revenue from doing so. Non-Asian players such as Tango and Kik have followed suit.
Among other things, the Viber games platform will enable users to use their social graph to send gifts to friends, access game leaderboards, challenge friends and share scores. Revenue will come from virtual items bought inside games.
The first titles have been developed with Storm8 (Viber Candy Mania and Viber Pop) and Playtika (Wild Luck Casino). They feature characters that Viber users will be familiar with from stickers that have been available on the platform for some time.
Viber founder Talmon Marco told TechCrunch that the company is aiming to have a small number of handpicked titles rather than a huge range. The ‘Viber Connect’ API which enables the social platform will therefore remain open only to selected partners.
He added that the gaming service has been designed not to interfere with the core messaging experience.
Marco also suggested there will be a number of commercial tie-ups in 2015, to “give users more capabilities”. The company is about to update the iOS version of the app to make it compatible with the iPhone 6 models.
Viber was acquired by Japanese e-commerce player Rakuten for $900 million in February and the messaging platform now has 209 million monthly active users.
Video calling was added in September, bringing it closer in functionality to Skype. Tencent’s WeChat/Weixin and LINE also offer this functionality.
In December last year, Viber boosted its efforts to generate revenue by introducing Viber Out, which enables users to make low-cost calls to any mobile or landline phone number.