Why Social Gaming Is King

By Alicia, Posted 14 Feb 2022

The old cliche that gaming consists of closing the curtains and isolating yourself from the world could not be further from the truth. Social gaming, which incorporates community, competition, and social interaction, debunks that myth.

Lets’ start with a quick definition: Social gaming refers to any type of gaming activity carried out online where players engage with the game in teams, or as individuals playing against one another or against the computer.

It is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the first commercial multiplayer online game was a role-playing one called ‘Islands of Kesmai’, released as far back as 1984.

In 2022 social gaming is a true phenomenon, driven by big technological advances that have led to the development of dedicated gaming communities on conventional gaming platforms like PC and consoles, but also on mobiles, in virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) spaces too. Social gaming encompasses video gaming, eSports, and casino gaming.

Estimates published on Statista show that by 2024 the entire market for social gaming could be worth a staggering 98.8 billion USD. Player numbers on games like Fortnite are in the 100s of millions – 350 million users were registered for Epic Games’ blockbuster hit in 2020.
 

Social Gaming, King, Online gaming
 

But what is it that makes social gaming so popular? Here are the key features of this type of game that make it such a success.

Sociability makes the games stickier

Players are far more likely to return to a game in which they have interacted with another player, formed relationships, or enjoyed a competitive experience.

Let’s look at Pokemon as an example.

Think back to 2016 when Pokemon GO was released, Nintendo’s decision to utilize the advancements in AR combined with one of the most popular gaming franchises was a decision that would spearhead a new generation of social gaming.

Pokemon, which was typically a solo experience, was brought into the real world via mobile phones. Locations all across the world featured countless Pokemon to collect, Pokemon Gyms to attack and defend, all of which could be done with or against other people.

The Pokemon GO phenomenon was staggering, particularly because it provided an experience that not even most social media platforms could provide - real-world interactivity. On social media, the fear of missing out on social interactions is rather intangible, but when applied to the real world, this fear of missing out can be extremely powerful.

According to Business of Apps, Pokemon GO had 232 million active users in 2016, yet, despite suffering a severe decrease in numbers the following year to 65 million users, the game has bounced back, and is increasing in popularity as the years go on - in 2020, Pokemon GO had an active player base of 166 million users.

This is what is meant by making the games ‘stickier’, when a game utilizes its social aspects well, it can increase its longevity, as players crave the social interaction provided by games.

In another example, live casino games like Blackjack or Roulette in which gambling takes place over video streams of real-life card tables, have grown in popularity over the last decade. Players who found the old flash-based versions of the games too dry now enjoy the interactive elements of playing at a table with a real-life croupier and other players with whom they can actually chat. Developers have found that being able to return to the same table at the same online casino and interact with the same dealer each time you log on makes the experience more personable and the product more sticky.


Leaderboards add a competitive edge

We all want to be the best at what we do. Social Gaming players on our competitive instincts to drive its popularity.

Leaderboards are a representation of current standings to see who is the best and where we rank among all the people in the game.

Leaderboards in gaming have been around since the inception of arcade machines, but they have evolved from just local high scores to worldwide rankings of 100,000s players.

There are many variations to leaderboards, presenting data such as time-based rankings, where players rank based on their geographical location, and group rankings among players of a similar class or level.

Gaming companies have implemented a different type of leaderboard in the form of achievements, whereby the player can complete specific tasks in-game to increase their ‘gamerscore’ - a numerical value that shows how many achievements a person has.

This adds a layer of competitiveness to the game, seeing that players are below you can boost your confidence, whereas seeing players above you can push you on to improve your skill and leapfrog over the competition.


Trading

Trading is a core component of online gaming, if you have ever played any massively multiplayer online game (MMO), such as World of Warcraft or Runescape, then you will understand how important trading is in keeping players engaged.

For most people, it can be extremely annoying to grind for loot and gear that you want for your character, especially when the luck isn’t going your way.

Rather than redoing the same dungeons and raids constantly, trading can be a quick and efficient way to acquire what you want, allowing you to get on with the things that you want to do.

Sometimes, not having certain gear or loot can prohibit you from interacting with friends and other players on raids and quests, potentially leading to frustration and eventually disengagement.

Luckily, someone will always be willing to trade items, and it is an extremely effective way of social interaction between players.


Importance of Push Notifications to keep players returning

Push notifications are utilized by most app developers to keep their audience engaged.

This is no different in social gaming, now that mobile gaming occupies the largest portion of the gaming market, according to New Zoo, there are around 2.7 billion mobile gamers worldwide, making it a lucrative market for mobile game developers, especially if they retain their player base.

Research by eMarketer found on MobiLoud states that overall retention for apps across three months is four times higher when using push notifications.

For games like PPPoker, using push notifications is crucial as it alerts their users to upcoming poker games, when waiting lists are open and what time the poker game will begin.


Guilds

The aforementioned MMO World of Warcraft is a perfect example of online guilds where players can team up and socialize.

Alongside making the game aspect easier and more rewarding, as more people can assist with raids and dungeons, it adds a deep layer of socialization to the game which you would not be able to get in the real world.

Playing with friends and people you interact with can positively impact the gaming experience, making you more willing to log back on and form even more memories with people from all over the world.


Social Media Integration

Social media is another phenomenon of the online world and one which naturally combines with the social gaming industry. For example, Facebook’s integration with Clash of Clans has played a huge part in driving its popularity.

In a similar fashion to World of Warcraft’s guild system, Clash of Clans allows a player to invite friends to their clan via social media. The calling is presented as an opportunity for family members and friends to help you to protect your settlement from being attacked by other clans. Players can also share in-game achievements on Facebook to ‘boast’ about their successes, compare themselves with other clans and players, and (for the developer’s benefit) advertise the game at the same time. This is a natural form of advertising that helps spread the word about the game.
 

In Summary

The popularity of social gaming is driven primarily by basic human instincts. We engage better with an online product that allows us to interact with other people, harnesses our competitive spirit, and rewards us in a way that we can show off our achievements to friends on social platforms. New technologies and online innovations have allowed social game developers to shape their products more effectively over time so that we can expect the reach and value of the social gaming industry to continue to grow over the next decade.

 

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