28 October 2010 0 Comments

The Social Gaming Boom

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The next time you get ticked off because your Facebook news feed is clogged up with  FarmVille notifications from all your friends, take a second to think about what is going on . . . A few years ago, the whole idea of online gaming with people you know wouldn’t have sounded like wildfire, but now, we’re learning otherwise. Americans spent $1.7 billion on virtual goods in 2010, with the majority of that money coming from social gaming. Social game providers like Zynga (the largest) are valued as highly as $3 billion, and Electronic Arts recently bought social game company Playfish for $300 million.

These numbers are coming from a recent report published by SkillPod Media, a company which focuses on providing social and casual games solutions. To understand the significance of this gaming wave, it’s important to know what constitutes a social game. Different definitions abound, but mostly everyone can agree that they are online games that factor in the players’ social networks and include high levels of communication . . . Going further, the use of asynchronous communication and competition against opponents you know in real life are also elements used to differentiate social games from typical multiplayer.

Platform The Social Gaming Boomcredit

But however you define it, it’s getting bigger at an alarming rate. Combining stats from PopCap, Gamezbo and Mashable, SkillPod Media states that about a quarter of the population in the US/UK play social games. That’s 56 million in the US. Facebook is the main destination for 83% of these gamers, and 41% work full time. It doesn’t take long before you realize that social gaming is reaching a portion of the public that it’s safe to say would have gone untouched by typical video games.

With this kind of focused attention, you can bet that publishers, advertisers, and developers are all taking their best shot. Long gameplay times, extended exposure, and immersion in popular social networks are just a few of the reasons advertisers are eager to jump on board. But with all this hype, how do companies separate the good from the bad? That’s the challenge, clearly. And the only hard and fast rule is that a social game can only succeed with tons of users. The secret of getting to that point will prove to be the key. But with smartphone growth at an all-time high, and set to penetrate the public even further, nobody has missed their chance just yet. It’s a safe bet that your Facebook feed will continue to be clogged by startup social games, many of which will probably die early, but others that might grow to be worth billions. So, annoying or not, this is a phenomenon to watch.

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