According to industry experts, social gaming is poised to become a billion dollar industry this year. Revenue streams in the form of virtual goods for games in 2011 rose from £510 million to £653 million. Of the 62 million US internet users, 27% will play onegame on a social network.
So it’s a fact, social gaming is a serious business. But is it a threat to traditional console, PC, MAC or MMO gaming? I play social games from time to time, console and PC Games regularly and dabbled in the world of MMO.
The difference I’ve found is clear; social games lack the depth of their ‘traditional’ counterparts. But that’s what makes them so appealing to less ardent gamers. They’re something we can ‘dip’ into for a few minutes. We get to socialise with our friends to an extent too. And of course there’s the resultant healthy competition. Think of them as WII-lite gamers. Most of them will probably never want to go toe to toe with wave-after-wave of highly trained troopers. But they don’t mind popping up, planting a few seeds and helping you to clean your farm.
FMCG and gaming brands are catching on to the idea of advertising to people through these games, as are good causes. There is a case for saying that whilst social gaming isn’t a threat, it’s a new branch to the tree. EA have dived right in and no doubt others will be too.
Perhaps the future does lie in creating ‘lite’ versions of console/PC games. Your performance could then be ported to the ‘full-fat’ version. And of course, you could enhance your performance with virtual goods, which would open up additional revenue streams. The opportunity for brands to appear in both the ‘full’ version of the game and the social version would also be appealing, as they could tap into new consumers.
What the gaming industry needs to be wary of is the point at which social games offer a more enriched experience. Because then the two groups will converge and the industry will have issues. So rather than a threat, perhaps the gaming industry should look to further embrace the world of social gaming, before it does become a threat.