Social network games have been under a microscope since the increase of their popularity, both by popular media and the gaming industry. Some portions of the gaming community share concern about games like FarmVille, hoping that these games will die off as a social media fad rather than stay a permanent part of the gaming industry. With accusations that the games are mindless, addictive, and made for ‘non-gamers,’ the hostility can be palpable; however, the video games industry is simultaneously showing multidimensional growth. Although some are loathe to admit it, the gaming industry needs social network games, and here are a few reasons why.
Social gaming improves the opinion of the gaming industry. With not only millions of new gamers, but millions more gaining exposure to gaming through their social networks, the gaming industry gains more positive social awareness. Social gaming is often thought of as family-friendly, casual, and stimulating. Parents have especially come around recently, with 64% believing that games are a positive part of their children’s lives.
Social network games encourages industry growth. Due to its increased exposure to millions of new gamers – who have previously had minor interest in gaming – millions of dollars are being added to the industry even during economic downturn. Between 2005 and 2009, the gaming industry grew from $7 billion a year in sales to $10.5 billion a year in the United States. Avista Partners estimates that the game industry’s global market cap is close to $100 billion.
Social gaming drives new job growth. The increased market for social games drives additional jobs as the video games industry strives to keep up with demand – between 2005 and 2009 the United States computer and video game software industry’s direct employment grew at an annual rate of 8.65% a year.
Advertisers see social gaming as a new, socially acceptable way of advertising. Many brands are now seeking to increase their awareness in social media by creating social games, like Purina’s Pet Resort. These advertisers and marketers offer a new revenue stream for the gaming industry.
The demand and popularity of social network games creates new independent gaming developers. When the gaming industry grows, entrepreneurs see new opportunities to create games. Whether it’s a new studio formed to create specific products for clients, or a new studio looking to maximize on new ideas and methods, these independent studios diversify and expand the video game industry.
Social gaming popularity increases quality in the gaming industry. By encouraging industry growth through the increase of new jobs and new studios, competition is being fueled between developers in the gaming industry. Increased competition means that developers of all gaming studios are encouraged to improve the quality and playability of their products to help not only meet a more demanding market, but to edge out their competitors.
Social network games encourage diversity in gaming. With new demographics, such as women, wanting quality games, and other demographics available to be targeted through the social network gaming medium, the video games industry is being encouraged to be more diverse in their game play. Games about farming (FarmVille), pet care and rescue (Pet Society), and time-based RPGs (Castle Age) have performed comparatively poorly in the video game market before the advent of social gaming. These style of games are now in high demand due to their viral and social nature on networks like Facebook and MySpace.
Much of the hostility directed at social network games comes from a psychological standpoint of hating things because they’re popular. Other hostility comes from fears that the gaming industry will embrace social network games as their main output, and leave “hardcore” gamers behind. As the gaming industry grows with the success of these games, however, all gamers will benefit from an increasingly funded, popular, and diverse video game industry.
The Electronic Software Association. 2010. Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2010 Report. The ESA Website. Available: http://theesa.com/facts/pdfs/VideoGames21stCentury_2010.pdf
Leigh Alexander. August 27, 2010. Avista: Game Industry Global Market Cap at $100-$105 Billion. Gamasutra website. Available: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/30127/Avista_Game_Industry_Global_Market_Cap_At_100105_Billion.php
The Electronic Software Association. 2010. Industry Facts. ESA website. Available: http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp