opinion

Marketing through Social Gaming

Joe D
Due in large part to the popularity of social networking websites including Facebook, social gaming has become widely popular across many different demographics. Simulation games, such as FarmVille, Zoo World, Pet Society and Happy Aquarium, are by far the games that receive the most attention on the popular social network. The booming success of these games generated $725 million in 2009 just in the US, 2010 figures will take a while to confirm, and it has been predicted they could generate three times as much by 2012.

Part of the attraction of social gaming is that the environment in which these games are played is much more relaxed and interactive compared with other types of games. Analysts at eMarketer.com have alerted the gaming industry to begin moving away from the traditional video game industry and start looking into this new, more socialized, form of gaming. What do you think, and do you have a social gaming strategy at your own business?

Research conducted by Lightspeed and Trendstream has revealed that as much as 25% of US Internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 were actively playing social games in February of 2010. It has been estimated by eMarketer.com that the US demographic including ages 18 through 64 is approximately 160 million users, making this 25% estimate of social gamers somewhere in the range of 40 million users.

Unfortunately, only a few of those 40 million users are actually paying to play these social games or to purchase add-ons, game coins or virtual goods, but all those things do add up and count as a large percentage of the money made each year from social gaming. Profit is generated in other ways such as custom games, custom game items, in-game promotions, product placements, display ads and co-branding opportunities. This generally follows for the Virtual World communities as well.

Because the social gaming market is still relatively new, many of the predictions for its continued profits in 2011 and beyond have been tentative at best. However, because these games tend to prove highly addictive they could ultimately prove a long-term business area with many long-term, loyal players…it could also fail just as quickly as it rose in popularity. What’s your prediction? Addicted to Farmville?

Figuring out new ways to monetize the social gaming industry could prove to be extremely profitable, for sure in the short term, and I believe long term as well. Advertising relevant products or services through social networking sites or directly through the game providers and publishers themselves is also an excellent way to take advantage of this growing trend. Getting in while the market is still new and developing could help businesses get good rates on advertising and promotional opportunities through these services. At the recent affcon2010.com convention in Aventura this month, tapping into this segment was a focus of multiple seminars – an indication that the future potential in this area bears investment consideration and is something should be investigating…

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