Today, we live in a world where the iPhone is 4 generations old and well on its way to world domination alongside the Android platform which has emerged as a dominant player in the space. Sony and Microsoft have both released motion sensing controllers and Nintendo, not to be outdone, has released in 2011 the world’s first 3D gaming device. No longer just a niche platform, social gaming has risen to lofty heights, approaching $1 billion in the U.S.
If 2011 is remembered as the year that games on mobile platforms grew quickly and games on social networks continued to mature, 2012 is quickly becoming the year that mobile games ecosystems are beginning to mature as well. Given massive changes in the Facebook monetization ecosystem over the last year, last year’s hit games are fighting for their lives, and new developers and games are climbing the leaderboards. At the same time, larger players are consolidating smaller studios and teams, investing heavily in a portfolio approach across mobile and social, and large media companies and traditional game developers continue to plot their social and mobile gaming strategies.
Mobile social gaming has suddenly skyrocketed in popularity, over the last couple of years. There continues to be tremendous growth in this industry, resulting in a massive inflow of investor money being put into social networks and social gaming. However, industry analysts are sceptical about this sudden spurt and think that this system might eventually break down entirely. So will mobile social gaming become the future of mobile?
With the advent of various operating systems and significant rise in the number of smartphone users today, there is but naturally a proportionate increase in the number of companies developing games for these mobile systems. While these companies are much smaller than those such as Playfish or Zynga, which is currently ruling Facebook, they are also growing at an amazingly rapid rate. In fact, many of these companies even have the choice of developing mobile games for Facebook or for popular smartphone brands like the iPhone, but prefer to continue working independently instead.
What’s mobile social gaming?
It all started on Facebook, really. Massive and simple games like Farmville allowed countless thousands of people to share a single gaming experience, and proved just how much hunger there was for social gaming. The games are easy enough to play that they go far beyond the traditional gaming audience – people who would never describe themselves as “gamers” (and might even be offended by the implied stigma that the word carries with it) would nevertheless log hours and hours of casual social gaming every week.
Mobile social gaming is a brilliantly simple concept that has been very complicated to set up and get running. The idea is that you take social games off the networks and put them on mobile phones. In the early days, this was platform specific – someone playing a game on iPhone could only play against someone else on an iPhone. But the goal was always that anyone, on any phone, should be able to play games against anyone else on any other phone. And it works – people love it.
And any doubts about the power of cross-platform mobile social gaming were dispelled in 2011, when OpenFeint was bought for over 100 million dollars by Japanese social media platform GREE. OpenFeint was one of the pioneers of mobile social gaming and was the first company that allowed iOS and Android users to play the same game at the same time.
Historically, games were always a social activity. This began to shift in the 1970s, when arcade games became prevalent and with the introduction of PCs and game consoles, game play became a largely an individual experience.
In computer and video games, a traditional game is a computer program adaptation of a non-computer game (such as a board game or card game). Board games and card games have been around for many years such as Go which is thought to have been around in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago, and although it is not known exactly when the game was invented. Backgammon is also thought to be one of the oldest two-player board game in the world. They are often ported to computer programs because of the ease of access and little need for set up time. They can be play on the Internet or LAN between players helping them to become popular to play online.
Traditional games can also be used as a way of gambling online, games like poker have gained significant popularity on the Internet being playable on a number of websites.
Computer games have contributed to the success of home and personal computers since the early days. Atari and Commodore are mentioned as two successful companies in this context, which were first successful in the arcade and game console segments, and then introduced 8-bit home computers for gaming, programming and other applications. Although system requirements may vary from game to game, the latest titles often recommend high graphics and processing power, broadband Internet connection for online play, etc.
Mobile social gamers & Traditional gamers. What’s the difference?
The newest trend is that digital social gaming allows users to digitize traditional games from the physical world and enhance the social nature of the games by leveraging mobile devices.
While the rapid rise and power of mobile and social games has shocked many leading game industry companies, it has come as less of a surprise to those causing the disruption. Not only are mobile and social games cheaper to develop from traditional games, which can cost tens of millions of dollars to develop, but they reach a broader audience.
With thousands of free games in the App Store and Android Market, low-cost games are likely to continue to delight consumer and cause grave concern for traditional developers.
The mobile social gamer is a different person than the traditional console player. Or at least that’s what research firm Flurry Analytics concludes.
According to the researchers, the average age of the mobile social gamer is 28, several years younger than the average 34-year-old “traditional gamer.” The company found in its survey of over 60,000 gamers that mobile social gaming is more prominent among people between the ages of 18 to 49. In fact, nearly 80 percent of those folks are playing casual titles on a mobile device. A little less than 50 percent of people in that age bracket play traditional games.
However, in other age brackets, traditional gaming still leads the pack. Flurry Analytics found that more than 20 percent of people under 18 are traditional gamers, compared to about 15 percent of mobile social gamers. Approximately 25 percent of folks over 50 play traditional games, while only about 5 percent of people in that age bracket play casual social games on a mobile device.
When it comes to gender, men still account for the majority of traditional gamers with 60 percent share, compared to 40 percent for women. However, in the social-gaming space, 53 percent of players are female, compared to the 47 percent who are male, according to the report.
The growth of mobile gaming has been meteoric in the past few years. Devices like the iPhone and Android-based smartphones have become central to the gameplay experiences of people around the globe. And the sheer number of smartphones in the wild, compared to consoles, is helping the mobile gaming market grow.
According to Flurry Analytics, it has “detected” more than 250 million iOS and Android-based devices around the world, and it believes more than 750,000 of those smartphones are being activated each day. The combined worldwide installed base of the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, is about 180 million, Flurry said. Approximately 200 million Nintendo DS and Sony PSP units are in the wild.
For now, the majority of mobile social gamers – 64 percent – are in North America. About 30 percent of mobile gamers are in Europe. Asia accounts for just 4 percent of all of the world’s mobile social gamers, while the remaining 2 percent are scattered elsewhere around the globe, according to Flurry.
The typical mobile gamer makes about $66,000 a year, Flurry found. Those who make less than $35,000 account for a little more than 5 percent of all mobile social gamers, while those who make more than $150,000 per year make up approximately 2 percent of that group.
When it’s all said and done, Flurry Analytics believes today’s average gamer is a much different person than in previous years.
“The video game industry is transitioning from an era of hardcore male gamers who have dominated the landscape, to more mass-market usage across mobile social games,” Flurry Analytics said in a statement. “The Mobile Social Gamer segment is highly engaged, younger, made up of more females, more educated and more affluent.
“Mobile social gamers are the new mass-market powerhouse,” the company said.
It’s only the first quarter of 2012 and it’s already been a year of amazing change, progress and innovation in the game business. The charge is led by social and mobile developers and publishers who have redefined the business. The video game guys need to follow fast. The game change is about building a customer base, loyalty and monetization path in real time.
Mobile and social game developers realize they must build audiences in the fiercely competitive marketplace where results are ruled by simple math – cost per acquisition (CPA) / lifetime value (LTV). The big challenge for social publishers is simply that CPA is rising faster than monetization and many developers feel Facebook is not doing enough to help their businesses grow.
In conclusion, mobile social gaming is truly coming of age and there is every possibility that this industry is all set to boom in the coming few years. Will traditional console video games die and be replaced by social and mobile games? Many think so but it is not likely in the next several years. However, social and mobile is definitely growing at a significantly faster pace and will rival console games. Today console games are still a larger market worldwide.
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