According to bwin.party’s Jim Ryan, real-money gambling on Facebook could be some time off yet with estimations coming in at the two-year mark.
Despite this, the intrigue in one of the biggest emerging markets fails to subside with every man and his dog having some say on the best strategies, latest rumours and big deals.
The reason that predicting the future for social gaming is so important is obvious – it’s a huge potential market. How to go about doing so is not easy. However, despite still being in its infancy, social gaming has created a set of numbers from which we can draw a variety of conclusions from. These conclusions will also be key to those looking to make informed decisions on how to go about making their own way in the social gaming world.
Of those most qualified to speak about trends within social gaming and social network applications in general, few are better positioned than AJ Glasser. As managing editor of the Inside Network, Glasser sees over a number of sites including Inside Facebook, Inside Mobile Apps and most relevantly Inside Social Games.
She explains that while social gaming does continue to grow, its rate of increase has slowed from its previous levels around two years ago.
She says: “As Facebook continues to expand its global operations and social game developers begin launching games on new networks like Google+ or Tencent, it becomes more difficult to predict the actual point at which social games growth will ceases.
“It may reach a critical mass within the next year or so.”
Social Gambling Apps
While any social gaming app can be tailored to promote a particular brand, the apps that are obviously of most interest to the iGaming industry are those that mimic their usual business. These non-real money gambling apps are the ones which have certainly caused the biggest stir so far with Double Down Casino stealing the headlines while Playtech’s recent activities and comments from Mor Weizer emphasise their importance.
These games obviously represent an easy way into social gaming for the iGaming industry. After all, in theory you could just take any given casino game and dump it into a Facebook shell. Unfortunately it’s by no means that simple with social gaming players behaviour differing considerably from that of our beloved regular punters.
Inside Network’s research into the effect of the FBI’s show of strength last April on social gaming apps shows that there appears to be very little crossover between the two.
Glasser explains: “We monitored the impact of the Black Friday indictments last April and saw no significant reduction or increase in traffic that could be attributed to the event.”
But even though Black Friday didn’t significantly impact the popularity of non-real money gambling apps, the usage of these games does continue to rise.
“We have, however, seen steady growth for the past 12 months in these apps and somewhat more modest growth in recently-launched social gambling apps like Lucky Gem Casino or Zynga Bingo,” Glasser adds.
Even better news for developers or owners of these social gambling apps is that their popularity appears to be increasing at a greater rate than social apps in general. While Glasser reveals that there is yet no way of measuring the growth of gambling apps against all others, there is one clear indicator which implies that they are growing in popularity disproportionately .
She reveals: “Our AppData traffic tracking service, however, shows us that four out of today’s top 25 largest Facebook games by daily active users are casino-themed games. A quick look back at this same leaderboard for April 25, 2011 reveals that only one casino-themed game held a place in the top 25.”
This either means that the appetite for social gambling apps is increasing or that the casino-themed games are improving in quality. While social network users may be becoming more partial to casino gaming it’s likely that the latter reason is much more likely.
Making Your Own
Given these encouraging figures, it’s likely that iGaming developers will be looking to turn their hand to the social sphere now more than ever. But for those starting from scratch they must be mindful that in an ever more crowded marketplace, the need to stand out is paramount. Not only that but the need to get an app live as soon as possible in order to begin building loyal users shouldn’t be underestimated.
The temptation therefore will be to rush out an app as soon as it’s ready. However, Glasser warns that this isn’t the best approach.
“Games that launch with a full suite of features and all graphics and text in place will perform better than a game released with “bare bones” features and missing graphics or text,” she says.
“The average Facebook games player now has a much higher expectation of quality and presentation than even just one year ago. Generally, though, the apps with the most attentive and agile developers behind them have the best chance to grow quickly as these teams are able to receive, process and implement player feedback very quickly as opposed to letting bug reports and player complaints pile up over time.”
Any developer taking heed of these warnings will realise the importance of getting their strategy spot on. Essentially, if you launch your app too soon then you risk losing popularity due to bugs and the need to tweak while those who wait too long may miss the boat altogether.
It’s a considerable dilemma but it’s one that holds the potential to great success if it’s answered correctly.