Has the real-money gambling via social networks phenomenon died before it really got started? Gamesys made headlines in 2012 when it launched its Bingo & Slots Friendzy real-money bingo app on Facebook. This week, Gamesys notified players that it was withdrawing the app from Facebook effective midnight on Wednesday. eGaming Review quoted an email alerting Facebook players to withdraw the funds in their Bingo & Slots Friendzy account before being required to “sadly wave goodbye” to the pioneering social media/gambling hybrid.
Gamesys’ August 2012 Facebook debut was followed that December by 888 Holdings’ launch of the real-money Bingo Appy on the social network. Since then, others have charged into the fray with options ranging from Paddy Power Social’s sports betting to Bonza Gaming’s slots. In January, Zynga launched a real-money version of its popular Zynga Poker app on Facebook, despite the fact that the performance to date of Zynga’s real-money tie-up with Bwin.party digital entertainment has been so lackluster that neither party makes mention of it in their quarterly reports.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the social gaming and real-money gambling audiences are distinct tribes with little appetite for crossover. While companies like Caesars Interactive Entertainment and IGT’s DoubleDown Casino are capable of generating millions from devoted social gaming whales, efforts to convert gamers into gamblers have been less lucrative. Seattle’s Big Fish Games became the first social game company to launch a standalone real-money version of its Big Fish Casino via gambling enablers Betable, but Big Fish scuttled the relationship just 18 months into the deal. Neither Big Fish nor Betable offered reasons for the split, but it may well have proven significantly less profitable than either party envisioned.
The uncertainty hasn’t stopped social gaming companies from dipping their toes into the real-money pool. Win, the social gaming subsidiary of Bwin.party, just announced the rollout of a real-money version of its Teddy Pets slot across Bwin.party sites. But it remains to be seen if such efforts will convince any significant number of social gamers to make the trek to PartyCasino.com or whether the game will simply prove another option for PartyCasino’s existing slots audience.