The number of people playing social media games is shocking. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on it every year and that number is expected to top a billion. Social Media Gaming is as Astounding as Social Media Itself. Online social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have become unexpectedly successful new additions to the Internet, and their success is partly attributable to the unbelievable success of social gaming.
Three of the top four most popular apps on Facebook are social games, and in the top 25 there are twelve. It’s not surprising that Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular, given its popularity in casinos, on the Internet and on TV for the past few years; but the top two apps on Facebook are purely silly social games: CityVille and FarmVille. Every month 45.8 million people play FarmVille and a whopping 90.6 million play CityVille.
Playing the games is free, but if you want to get ahead, move faster, or get the really cool stuff, you’ll need to spend real dollars. Players are buying game credits to the tune of several million dollars to tens of millions a year for each game. What’s so social about the games? That’s the really clever aspect. Players get to celebrate in-game accomplishments by simply clicking one link to post them to their Facebook walls. Likewise, players can give gifts to others that are then useful in the recipient’s game. Asking for help from other players is also encouraged, and if the friend isn’t already playing, then they have to join the game to fulfill the request.
Invitations to join new games come around quite often and a surprising number of adults over the age of 40 are busily building virtual cities and farms right along with the younger generations. The amount of money spent on social gaming is outrageous and increasing at a rapid pace. In 2010, players spent $510 million on virtual goods, but in 2012 that number is expected to rise to almost $779 million. In a time of economic troubles and a wrecked real estate market, it’s pretty surprising that virtual real estate is rapidly increasing in value. Another thing that many people may find surprising is that this is not an American phenomenon. Oh, we’re not excluded, by any means – there are 53 million social media gamers in the U.S., but with a population of 307 million that means 17% are using their social media for playing games, whereas the UK has a population of about 61.8 million and a gaming population of 17.5 million which means well over a quarter of the population (28%) are playing social games!
The French are famous for food and fashion, and not known for frivolity, but 13.6 million of the 62.6 million people in the French populace play social games. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have huge numbers of game players also. Those numbers include gamers over age 10 only, so the actual number is much higher, but can’t be well documented since the social media sites usually require members to be at least 13 years old (and aside from the fact that kids are less likely to answer survey questions, who would risk their Facebook account to admit that they are only eight years old!).
In early 2010, a big survey done by PopCap Games found a very surprising fact about social networking gamers. The average social gamer is not a nerdy college kid or even a high schooler with way too much time on his hands. What they found out from a survey of almost 5,000 respondents is that the average social gamer is a 43 year old woman! It’s easy to see why game development has become very popular and competitive. With more and more people playing all the time, it is also becoming a major forum for advertising. It won’t be long before we see “sponsored products” popping up in games.