Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 3836
, Published on 18 September 2012
Gaming has been around since ages, when the Persians devised games like Backgammon which was a simple board game. Lately, gaming has picked up a new dimension where people socialize and there is a sense of competition. Playing games as a way of socializing instead of playing in solitude is the new way to go for gaming. This kind of gaming is known as Social Gaming.
There are a number of companies in the field of social gaming who have millions of users and millions of dollars as revenue. A social game can be of various forms like Social Network game which has social network integration or a multiplayer video game like a Massively Multiplayer online game (MMO) where large numbers of online users participate in the same virtual environment.
Social Games can be broadly classified into 4 types viz.
Social Strategy Games : In these types of games players are given cities or civilizations of their own and expected to build them by acquiring resources, setting up common utilities and institutes, getting into alliances. Evony is an example of this type.
Social Sim Games: These are simulation games and are very popular on social media. Farmtown is an example of this type.
Social Experience Games: These are more focused on the social experience the user gets by playing the game like Music Pets which was a new way of sharing music online.
Social RPGS: These are the role playing games like Mafia wars where players fight one another by completing tasks and earning rewards.
Potential of Social Gaming
The potential for Social Gaming reach is measured in terms of Daily Average Users (DAU) and Monthly Average Users (MAU). On an average, a social game generates $10 to $30 per 100 DAU for the developer of the game. The leading game developers include Zynga.com, Electronic Arts, etc.
So with most of the popular games with DAUs in millions justifies social gaming to be a million dollar industry. The potential is evident by the fact that the developers are able to attract millions of users daily and get a hold of their complete attention span.
Shown below are top 10 games according to the DAUs each gets:
Here we can clearly see that zynga.com takes away the crown of being the top developer in the industry. It is also important to note that most of these games are played on Facebook. Thus Facebook provides the platform required for getting the reach for social games. The pie chart below shows the share of Facebook in social games:
Why is Social Gaming important to Marketers?
Social gaming has gained all the importance because of a key member called ‘the gamer’. These gamers or players interact and track each other. The gamers are able to see each other’s statuses and updates which creates a sense of virtual camaraderie. As a result it gives more engagement and stickiness to the whole phenomenon.
Today the digital marketing landscape is getting more and more crowded with large numbers of banners, emails, newsletters vying for eyeballs. Also there are newer ad newer restrictions while doing all such promotions, which gives the consumers new means of avoiding such communication from the marketers.
So wouldn’t it be good for marketers to get a better amount of attention where the consumers are already very active. Social gaming is the place where we already have millions of active users daily who by their choice play the games. This is definitely the place all marketers are looking to and as shown above Facebook is the Mecca for social gaming.
Near 30% of Facebook’s 900+ million users play social games and serve as a great place to advertise your brand or product. In a study done by research firm eMarketers they found that almost half of internets population in age group of 18 – 44 played social games daily. The potential for increasing brand awareness through social gaming is huge as most of the games are free and make the engagement enjoyable, which increases stickiness. Also social games have a wide mass market with significantly low cost of development and implementation.
Here are a few ways companies use social games for increasing brand awareness:
In Game Ads: Putting an ad in the virtual world of games is as good as putting up an ad in the real world. People tend to notice such ads better. Honda had recently put its CR-Z hybrid car’s ad in a game called Car Town.
Gamification: Gamification as defined by Wikipedia is the use of game designs, game mechanics and game thinking to enhance non game context. Gamification is being used almost everywhere by brands in campaigns. Famous celebrity Rihanna has used Gamification to launch her new album and unlock exclusive content on the Facebook page.
Charity: Social gaming is very useful tool to raise funds for charity. Games like CityVille partnered with some restaurant chain companies and raised funds by selling in game items and points. The money collected was given to World Food Programme and the users could get improved abilities using the in game items sold.
Community Building: Many companies have built experiences for social gamers to promote their brands. They don’t just offer rewards in their social games but also give a unique fun experience to the gamer which enhances brand loyalty and creates a digital community. Master card, Expedia, etc have already used these inexpensive ways to build brand loyalty.
Advantages of Social Gaming as a Marketing tool
The stellar feature of Social gaming is that it combines the viral nature of social media with the fun of gaming. These two attributes together propel large number of users not only to play but also to share their experiences with their friends thus making a significant impact on awareness. Social gaming gives the marketer longer duration of attention span as compared to usual marketing techniques or even viral videos for that matter. It brings in a sense of social benefit like level or status improvement, accomplishment publishing and virtual free goods. It acts as a driver for not only referring the games to new users but also continue playing. Thus retention is maximized. Social gaming guarantees great user engagement. Following are the benefits of social gaming in marketing:
1. Tremendous Reach: As stated earlier, social media has a lot of users and most of them like to play games. The reach is significantly larger than physical media and gives a better chance to meet extensive audience, engage and retain them.
2. Lead Generation and Conversion: Social games have proved to be very efficient for lead generation as compared to regular online ads. The user specific data can be used to target relevant users. Conversion rate is also high in case of virtual goods, as shown by a research done by viximo where 35% of the users gave sales to various companies as the game targets were already interested in the brand.
3. Stickiness: It is important for a game to retain as many gamers as possible so that the brand associated with the game stays on in the minds of the customers. This eventually leads to more sales of virtual goods as well as actual offline sales. The measure of stickiness is the ratio daily users to monthly users. The games that can have high stickiness are usually the most successful ones.
Challenges faced by Social Gaming
Like other forms of marketing, social gaming also faces some challenges. The important ones are mentioned here:
Mobile Gaming: As more and more users of social networks start using it on mobiles, the social games would also have to provide cross platform functionality. Currently most of the social games are going mobile seamlessly.
Platform Challenges: Dependence of game developers on facebook has to reduce so as to increase their profitability and sustain social gaming as an industry.
Monetization Model: Game developers have to come up with better monetization models to keep the growth rate increasing. However the seamless integration of brands like McDonalds with games like FarmVille is a promising gesture to the future of social gaming.
The future for Social Gaming looks very promising if it grows at the current rate and thus coupled with it is the future of digital marketing. Of all the digital marketing tools Social Gaming is still in nascent stage and will evolve to be an equal with other techniques of digital marketing. All this can happen if the game developers focus on making games that are fun to play and attractive and make their quality top class. There are examples of super successful games like FarmVille, but the failure rate is also high. It is important for the marketers to identify the right kind of game for their product or brand and choose wisely.
This article has been authored by Akshay Bhalerao from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research.