Editor’s Note: Inside Social Games has been quietly expanding its coverage to include mobile games with social features, as the social and mobile sectors are becoming more and more interconnected. As a result, the concept of “social games” is continuing to be redefined. The following guest post was written by Anil Dharni and Ken Chiu of GREE and provides perspective on the convergence of mobile and social games. Dharni serves as Senior Vice President, Studio Operations and Chiu is the company’s Senior Vice President, Games Studio. Dharni was the President and COO of Funzio, which GREE acquired in May 2012. Chiu left Zynga to co-found and served as Funzio’s CEO.
In today’s world, the words “social” and “mobile” go hand-in-hand. We are seeing social and mobile become more mainstream and are crucial components of any game trying to achieve widespread adoption and success. There is no doubt that mobile games with robust social elements will be leaders in entertaining, engaging, and ultimately retaining loyal users. With users becoming more and more sophisticated, the bar will continue to get raised in terms of production quality, graphics, and game-play — forcing game-makers to be more innovative in their development.
First, let’s take a look at the current state of “social”. Up until now, we have seen a lot of sharing, trading, and chatting – but not much that goes above and beyond these basic social features. While the “newer” social features are far more advanced than that of a couple years ago, there is still an untapped market of “social” that game developers are yet to take advantage of. A truly social mobile game will deliver richer, more in-depth game experiences by allowing users to reach deeper levels of interaction allowing them to be a part of the game. Statistics show that the more social games are, the higher the probability they will attract and retain a larger audience, in addition to having a lower cost of user acquisition, in comparison to single-player games. This information alone proves that there is, in fact, an increased thirst for social interactions on mobile, similar to those of the console world.
With the advancement and widespread distribution of new technologies, the evolution of games, and smarter, more experienced mobile gamers on the rise, the mobile games industry will inevitably see social develop. For example, we have already seen how successful multiplayer has been through titles such as Bingo Bash and Clash of Clans, in addition to group-level interactions on mobile becoming more mainstream. Community or guild-based features will become the norm in successful mobile social games and social networks such as Facebook will become important channels for user acquisition, playing an instrumental role in multi-player features. This is a good example that shows the upward trend of more social, mid-to-hardcore game adoption over traditional, more casual games – and showcases the thirst users have for group-level, social interactions within the game. What will be interesting going forward, is how companies will use this notion of group, multi-player gaming and make it successful across different platforms and technologies.
Another important element of social and mobile is data and the way it is analyzed. Data is certainly becoming a competitive differentiator and the emergence in social has forced the industry to rely much more heavily on analytics, to genuinely understand how users interact and what is most appealing to them, in-game. As games become more robust, they send more data about player behavior. Companies that can scale and sift through that data to improve game design, retention, and monetization will inevitably succeed in the long-run. The industry will continue to heavily rely on robust analytics, especially taking advantage of new tools built to make analyzing game data much more efficient and easier to digest. The sophistication of analytics has changed the social gaming landscape quite a bit and without analytics companies would not be able to launch a game with the confidence levels that we have now.
The convergence of social and mobile also opens doors for new styles and genres of mobile games. With games becoming more robust and engaging, users will expect higher-quality games and in-game experiences across the board. Traditional game companies will be able to enter the competitive mobile game market with free-to-play offerings with richer, console-like experiences in addition to more branded IPs on mobile. With smartphones becoming more readily available to users around the world, and new technologies such as iOS 6 becoming more advanced, there is a much larger opportunity for game developers to get creative with the ways they incorporate social elements in their games. There is much untapped potential in social mobile games and we think the industry at large is excited to see how it will evolve.