Ten Reasons that Social Games May Eat the Casual Market

When they burst on the scene in 2004 downloadable Casual Games were one of the most exciting new areas to open up in gaming in quite a while, finally starting to realize the promise of interactive entertainment as a mass-media phenomenon. With relatively low production costs and a business model of “Free to try and cheap to buy”, there seemed to be no way that Casual Games couldn’t succeed.

But Casual Games haven’t become the all-encompassing juggernaut that some people were predicting  they would be a few years ago. Meanwhile, Social Games are quickly expanding into exactly the same market.

So are Social Platform Games just casual plus plus, or are they the new bigger better thing?

Here are ten reasons that it just might be both:

10. Social games are hard to clone.

Cloning is more than common in the world of casual, it’s a way of life. Whether it’s the hundredth hidden object game, millionth match three, or trillionth time-management title, every single success spawns endless of knock-offs. And sometimes the copies are even better than the original. (Luxor, anyone?)

Sure, you can clone Mob Wars, but can you clone a community? The halls of videogame history are littered with the corpses of products that tried and failed to create a quick copy of a social phenomenon. And that’s because in a social game the players are more than just an audience, they’re an active part of the game’s success. That’s something you have to build. You can’t just copy it.

9. Micro-transactions work better in Social Games

While a lot of people understand what micro-transactions are, relatively few people seem to understand how they really work. The biggest factor in successfully convincing someone to give you their money is communicating exactly what they’re going to get when they give you that dollar. While you can buy a new level or outfit for a casual game, it’s harder to sell someone a new experience. Everyone wants to buy something something more than just more, the want something that’s going to make the game better.

8. Conversion is hard to do.

It’s relatively easy to get people to show up on the internet. What’s more difficult is convincing them to stick around, especially if you’re going to charge them $20 to do it.

The current model for Casual downloads invites everyone to the party, then locks the door and demands that they either pay up or get out. In the end only one to five percent actually break out their credit cards. The rest go see what’s happening next door.

But Social Platform games are truly free. And spending is about enhancing and expanding the experience of playing the game that they’re already playing. With the right integration of social elements a player will not only keep playing the same game longer, they’ll be ready to come back and play again the moment you tell them that you’ve given them more.

7. Social is scalable.

If you’re lucky enough to have a hit Casual Game your next step to profit is to make your whole game over again and add a “2” to the end of its name.

And after you’ve made an entirely new version of your game you have to distribute and market a new title that’s now competing with your old one!

A social game is defined by the relationship, so you can add in new content at any time, and your fans are already showing up to play.

6. Social Games work for everybody.

Can you get a hardcore gamer to play your Casual Game? Occasionally, and only if the content is just right.