social gaming- what’s it all about

Games are big news in the entertainment industry. I know I have to say that because games pay my salary, but if you look at game they’re moving out of the preserve of geeky teenagers and into the family sphere. I think the wii has done a lot for making games accessible to people who were born in an age when controller didn’t exist. The wii is all about simple movements much like you’ll use in real life and its really intuitive to use. Similarly the games that are being developed for it are easy to pick up and understand. Nicole Kidman aimed straight at the baby-boomers when she was advertising brain training through gaming as a way of reinvigorating your grey cells.
These are all interesting incidents of games coming more into the sphere of the common (wo)man , but there is another quiet phenomena which is revolutionizing gaming. Social networks have got people playing games in droves, I’m sure that you would have had an invite for Mafia Wars or Texas Hold ‘em on Facebook.
First, some facts about social gaming;
1) Monthly active users (the metric of choice) of the top 20 Facebook games apps was 139,820,009 in May (these are not deduplicated, so there will be some overlap with people playing multiple games)
2) Zynga (one of the top developers) claims to be making $100million a year
3) Playfish has 100MM installed games in 18 months
4) The top 25 Myspace games apps have had about 100MM installs
These are big numbers for an industry that only started less than 2 years ago. There are a couple of different approaches amongst the front runners in this industry; some are all about developing the best content, whilst others have a laserlike focus on the consumer and their experience. Both approaches seem to work. The big challenge is trying to monetize this audience; it costs a lot to keep servers running and the current monetization opportunities are through subscriptions, micropayments and advertising. These are less tested and guaranteed than the traditional method of license sales through some sort of freemium model. There is also a long way to go in terms of playing socially on your telephone. There have been some initial forays into this (“Who has the biggest brain?” used Facebook connect), but there is a scope to develop this into something huge in the future.
The big ideas behind social gaming is that it transforms gaming from where it is at the moment; its not about a solitary pursuit in the warm glow of the screen, its more along the lines of playing a board game with the family. Its entertainment with a low threshold for getting involved, with more of a focus on the communication and interaction around the game rather than strictly the game itself. Its early days in this market, but I’m excited to be involved with it.

One thought on “social gaming- what’s it all about

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