How social gaming has changed the landscape of the video game industry

April 26, 2017 • Tech

With the rise of smart devices and the prevalence of high-speed internet connectivity, the video game industry has undergone something of a transformation over the past decade. With Valve’s Steam digital distribution service dominating PC game sales and the rise of virtual storefronts such as Android’s Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, as well as the PSN and XBLA, many of the previous barriers to entry for developers have now been removed.

As a result, there are now more games and more gamers than ever before. Mobile and social gaming, in particular, has seen a meteoric rise in line with the rise of such technologies, growing from an estimated market value of $11.3 billion in 2011 to an estimated $22.1 billion by 2020, with a CAGR of 5.6% between 2015 to 2020. To illustrate the significance of social gaming’s growth, it’s worth noting that console gaming was worth $25 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $29 billion by 2020, with an anticipated CAGR of 2.4% between 2015 and 2020.

There’s no doubt about it: social gaming is closing in on traditional gaming year by year, and developers are fully aware of it. With social media becoming ubiquitous in our everyday lives, games studios have increasingly looked at ways to enhance the social interaction between their users in order to keep them engaged for longer.

MZ’s Game of War: Fire Age, for instance, successfully combines accessible gameplay with social elements including chatting with teammates and forging alliances to keep both casual and hardcore players hooked. Moreover, the title actively encourages players to connect to their social media accounts, by offering in-game items and rewards for those who refer their friends to join the fight via social network Facebook.

Similarly, live roulette at bgo encourages similar sociability, through its use of multi-camera, real-time games where players can interact with human dealers as they play the popular casino game. Furthermore, the site also offers live variations of card games blackjack and poker. In these titles, bets are placed and hands are dealt in real time, going some way to emulate the social experience of a land-based casino.

It’s not only the landscape of games themselves that have changed, however; so have the users that play them. Back in 2014, a study commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau found that female gamers outnumbered their male counterparts for the first time, with the overall gaming audience being made up of 52% women. In the US, meanwhile, a 2015 survey found that 50% of all men and 48% of women played video games on a console, PC or handheld device. According to Quantic Foundry, the match-three, family/farm sim and casual puzzle genres were the most popular types of game amongst females – all of which have strong links to mobile and social gaming.

Social gaming has also given rise to a new type of video game model that has fundamentally changed the way in which developers create content: free-to-play titles. Instead of charging users at the point-of-sale, the base game is offered as a download at no cost, being monetised instead through secondary purchases for in-game rewards and additional items. In lieu of paying for features, users can often instead utilise social media such as Facebook to request extra lives and items from their friends – with developers hoping that this increased exposure will ultimately lead to more in-app purchases in the long term.

The free-to-play model is one that has worked so well for the likes of Supercell’s mobile MMO, Clash of Clans, which earns as much as $1.5 million in revenue on a daily basis. Similarly, iGaming operators have also seen the success of offering users a taste of the action at no initial cost, with casino sites such as bgo offering players 20 free spins on the Starburst slot when signing up. The free-spins model is one that has been used by a number of other iGaming hubs in recent years, including the likes of Dove Slots and Magical Vegas, both of which also offer 20 free spins on a number of titles.

Ultimately, it is undoubtable that social gaming has transformed the landscape of the video game industry in a number of ways over the past several years. From changing the way developers conceptualise and implement content to shaking up the very demographics of the industry’s target audience, social gaming has had a substantial impact over a relatively short period of time, and shows no signs of slowing down yet.

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