Oh Snap: Snapchat launches new gaming and AR features in bid to play catch-up

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Snapchat has announced the launch of various new features focused around augmented reality (AR) and camera search.

The launch, at the company’s first Snap Partner Summit, sees greater integrations with Lenses and Scan. The social media network is updating Lens Studio, its desktop app which enables users to build and distribute Lenses on Snapchat, to include capabilities such as hand and body tracking. The company has also launched a series of lenses which aim to bring iconic venues to life through AR, including Buckingham Palace, the United States Capitol Building, and the Eiffel Tower.

Another aspect for Lens is AR Bar and Scan. The former aims to make it easier for users to discover and navigate Lenses and camera search experiences on Snapchat, while the latter will ensure relevant Lenses will ‘dynamically surface for Snapchatters based on what is in the camera view.’

So what did everyone make of the news? Gizmodo was suitably unimpressed with the launch. The headline – “Snapchat: Hi, Hello, I’m Still Here. Please Stay” – was naturally something of a giveaway, with Victoria Song noting the move was ‘a bid to remain relevant.’

Josh Krichefski, CEO at MediaCom, noted a similar theme. “Snapchat’s new AR and gaming announcement is a great example – once again – of the company having to innovate to stay relevant, and the move is reflective of the consumer demand for different types of content, engagement and entertainment all in the same place,” said Krichefski. “Snap’s foray into gaming and other social app integration is an attempt to not just draw in another pool of gaming users but create a more social hub for friends to connect and play games together.”

TechCrunch, meanwhile, took a different path, noting that the company’s current strategy was a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.’ Citing a ‘high-ranking Snap executive’, the publication noted the innovation element. “If it’s going to invent these products, and others want something similar, it’s smarter to enable and partly control the Snapchatification than to try to ignore it,” wrote Josh Constine.

“The company’s message is that it’s becoming easier to cooperate with Snapchat than copy it.”

Recent data has shown that, at least in the UK, users are becoming less committed to the real-time social app. According to eMarketer, numbers will continue to decline in the coming years, from 14.8 million UK users in 2018 – representing almost two in five (39.2%) of social network users – to 14.1m and 34.2% respectively by 2023. The research firm cited Snapchat’s redesign as a key indicator of the migration – a subject this publication has previously touched upon.

Again, the copycat element remains a tricky one to solve. “While it’s too early to tell whether Snapchat’s ad revenues will suffer as a result of the redesign, a declining number of younger users could make advertisers less inclined to spend on the platform if that same audience can be reached elsewhere,” said Showmik Podder, forecasting analyst at eMarketer.

“Many of the same features that have made Snapchat popular have been adopted by Instagram,” added Podder. “This raises the question of whether former Snapchat users will ever return to the app.”

With the new features – and openness – the company will hope that it’s on the right path again.

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