Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Social Gaming 2011 Predictions

What's coming up for social gaming in 2011? One word: revenues. This category of games is still growing rapidly, despite Facebook's changes to viral messaging. Major publishers have acquired social gaming companies, and are exploring ways to connect their non-social game content to social gaming. Facebook continues to grow, now becoming the most popular destination on the Internet. So we can expect social gaming to follow along, as it makes use of some of our most powerful urges. It's funny that for decades the game industry was looking for a way to attract a wider audience than just teenage boys of all ages. And when it finally does, it turns out that the larger audience isn't interested in the types of games they know how to build.... it takes a new type of game to attract a new audience. So the hardcore gamers turn up their noses at social games, as they capture more and more of the gameplaying audience and their dollars.

Now for some predictions as to where social gaming is going in 2011.

  • Zynga continues to grow, but at a slower pace. One of the big stories this year was the dethroning of Farmville as the biggest social game... by Zynga's Cityville. A company that has mastered the art of eating its own young will go far. Their rocket-driven rise will slow, but they have enough velocity to stay in orbit.
  • Social gaming elements continue to be more integrated into old-style game publishers. FIFA, anyone? Expect more connections between social games and other types of games. Many MMO's now have social game "versions" that at least connect you with the branding and some of the style of the MMO. It's a relatively easy way for a game to use social media to connect with fans. The interesting part will be as publishers figure out ways to connect the two types of games more deeply, which I expect we'll see this year.
  • Licensed social gaming takes off, with several high-profile licenses announced. It seems inevitable, but the biggest players haven't needed to go this way yet to build market share. Smaller players will discover licensing is a good way to build visibility. What's going to be licensed? Anything from popular culture that has a big audience... movies, books, music, celebrities, TV shows, comics. It's already happening, but it hasn't hit the big-time yet. 2011 will see it happen.
  • Social gaming gets gamier, attracting more of the hardcore types. There are a few games out there that are much more based around traditional game elements, and we'll see more of them. Some of them will start to get some visibility, too. We won't see fragfests (OK, maybe we will) but expect to see more variety in game designs.
  • Advertisers begin to get social gaming. This year should see more product placements and ads in social games, as advertisers gravitate to millions of monthly users who spend lots of time in social games, and social game companies find a nice source of revenue. Again, it's already happening, but it should accelerate rapidly. The newness is a barrier, and lack of standardized buying and selling. When companies make it easy to buy advertising, and demonstrate results for advertisers, you'll see them pile on.
  • Social gaming uses more marketing. As competition intensifies, social gaming companies will get more aggressive with marketing (especially as the easier viral marketing capabilities are hobbled by Facebook). We'll see advertising, branding (NASCAR  racers?), event marketing, and all sorts of fun stuff. Especially as traditional game companies, with more experience in these techniques, attempt to muscle their way into a good market share.
All in all, another year of solid growth in social gaming is ahead. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to another expedition...

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