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Now Snapchat has “Filter Games”

Snapchat wants you to play with your face, not just take pictures of it. New Selfie Lens filter games are starting to appear to users, creating an addicting new Snapchat feature that also inspires competition between friends and could become a powerful ad revenue driver. Snapchat confirms this is the launch of a new, native games feature.

Back in March, Snapchat tested a limited run of a Sponsored Kraft Mac & Cheese game where you had to catch noodles in your mouth. Then earlier this month, it offered an unsponsored Puzzle Face game where you have to slide tiles around to reconstruct an image of your face in the least amount of time. Both were first reported by Wojdylo.

Snapchat has also previously allowed some traditional Snap Ads in Discover to be swiped up to launch a web browser with a game inside, like the Gatorade Serena Williams tennis game, and the Under Armor Cam Newton game. But these weren’t built by Snapchat or hosted natively in the app, and instead were built by ad agencies and hosted on the web.

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Snapchat’s Sponsored Mac & Cheese game (left), and Puzzle Face game (right). Image credit: Wojdylo

Now Snapchat is offering its most full-fledged, well-produced native game, called Santa’s Helper. It’s embedded in one of the first Lenses shown today. You can find it by opening the camera, holding on your face to scan it, then choosing the Santa’s Helper Lens.

The game places your face into an elf body, JibJab-style, and then you tilt your device back and forth to steer yourself down a ski slope as you collect presents and avoid obstacles. You can take a photo or video at any time and post it or share it with friends to challenge others to beat your score.

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Snapchat game Santa’s Helper. Image Credit: NewHopeClub

While absurdly simple, the games are also accessible and don’t require many instructions. They could get users coming back over and over to improve their scores. And since most Snapchat Lenses are temporary, there’s a sense of urgency to play before they disappear.

Some of Snapchat’s influencers have tried creating their own games in the past, which generally see viewers try to take a screenshot at the right time, like when parts of an image line up in a fast-moving video. And chat apps from Asia like Line have long offered games to play while you wait for friends to reply.

Snapchat is also tapping into people’s competitive spirit, as high score sharing via direct message or Stories could lure your friends to play, trash talk, and send back higher scores. This asynchronous, challenge-style gaming is what Facebook Messenger is trying to tap into with its own Messenger Games platform that includes titles like Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Snapchat’s games aren’t as polished, but instead inspire the rough-edged goofiness its known for.

Finally, Snapchat has already proven that advertisers are eager to buy Sponsored Lenses that essentially attach their brands to your faces. This type of promotion slips past people’s banner-blindness and general numbness to ads, and offers virality and influencer marketing as you send the Sponsored Lens-filtered creations to friends. And even if your never share the output, just playing with the lenses creates a much deeper, more interactive experience with a brand than most ads. Demonstrating a new potential revenue stream is a big deal for Snapchat as it heads towards a 2017 IPO.

The Serena tennis game saw an average of 217 seconds of play per user who opened it, and that’s despite having to dig the game out of another ad and wait for the web page to load. By building its own native games inside its app, Snapchat may have found another way to stay fresh and fun in the eyes of teens.

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