Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Social Games Adding Gambling

The fast-moving world of social gaming is heading to some interesting places. First off, a survey done by looking at Facebook ratings shows that users feel the games are becoming higher in quality. Or, perhaps, more adept at delivering what the users want, which is not necessarily the same thing. The survey looked at 5 games with at least a thousand ratings from users, and found that the ratings are generally rising, from 3.82 to as much as 4.5 or so. It's not clear what this can mean for developers, though it's certainly something you can tout in your marketing. There does seem to be a correlation between higher ratings from users and games that grow faster and have larger user bases.

While social games may be getting better, they are also changing their nature. One of the interesting new trends is adding gambling. Yes, games of skill tucked into social games, or just explicit games of skill, where you can wager your virtual dollars and hope to bring in more virtual dollars or prizes. The games, of course, always win... not only through a house edge, but from the fact that the user is spending more time on their site. And, of course, spending more virtual dollars.

The more explicit use of gambling is in the game shows, like Wheel of Fortune. The Game Show Network is at the forefront of this trend. It's yet another way to make money from games that are free to play, though of course you have to worry about fraud, and cheating, and a host of other issues which are not simple to solve. Which is why this technology is being offered as back-end support to social game companies, which you can expect to start signing up for as the revenue possibilities become clear.

The whole thing points up the absurdity of trying to ban Internet gambling. Not only is it difficult to control Internet access for your whole country (look at the effort the Chinese put into the Great Firewall, and that's still pretty porous), but even defining gambling gets much trickier in an age of virtual currency. Why not simply tax it and let it grow? Yes, gambling addiction (like other addictions) can ruin lives, but that's why you take some of the revenues and put it into treatment programs and education.

Anyway, the take-home message is that social gaming is evolving rapidly, monetization options are increasing, and this category will continue to grow faster than traditional gaming. Marketers take note.

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