Today’s video game industry has ballooned into a mammoth $66 billion business, and one of its fastest growing segment is social networking games. From $3.2 billion in 2011, games like Farmville and Gardens of Time have grown into $4.5 billion in 2012. That could mean that social networking games can outperform retail sales as early as next year if the current trend continues. An interesting study conducted in National Cheng Kung University in China shows the reason why people around the world seem to adapt social networking game easily after it was introduced just a few years ago.
The study shows that social networking games found in Facebook and other social networks are a lot a more engaging and attractive than the usual dose of online games.
Published in Internet Research journal by Kuo-Hsiang Chen, Kai-Shuan Shen and Min-Yuan Ma, the research included interviews of experts in gaming and social media, as well as surveys of 321 video gamers. The team came up with a conclusion why social networking games are embraced by more people than the traditional online games:
- The games are easy and convenient to play.
- They are friendly and lively.
- They offer social interaction, unlike most traditional computer games.
Most of the time, people playing social networking games are also those who want to kill some time off. Social networking games don’t require any special skills and commitment to use unlike regular video and online games.
According to the study, games like Farmville, Zynga Poker, and Mafia Wars are played for similar reasons why earlier generation turned to Windows Solitaire in the past.
“Ease of access has translated into several new demographic groups playing games consistently,” said Chethan Ramachandran, a co-founder of Playnomics and the company’s current CEO. The gaming-analytics company chief concurred with the conclusion of the study, although he also mentioned that it under stressed the fact the games are only attracting new users.
Bonnie Ho, another expert analyzing data, and news on gaming, mobile apps, and social networks, agreed with the study and agreed how social gaming has spread rapidly.
The fast growth social networking games have experienced within the past few years has come with a heavy cost for users though, as the best games spreading virally on the web are also being utilized as milking cows of their developers and makers through heavy handed use of aggressive marketing tactics.
Games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Yoville initially annoyed early users when the game makers flooded Facebook users with status updates and other marketing lures in their news feeds. According to Ho, such methods were important to the success of those games.
“Attitudes from social gamers towards this type of game design is fairly negative. But these mechanics are effective at driving virality as well as monetization. As long as social gamers respond and convert in the way social-game designers want them to, social-gaming companies will continue to use them,” Ho said.