Social casino games provide a unique entertainment option for online customers and the fact that they are easily accessible from popular social networks like Facebook make them very convenient. There is also the fact that social casinos can reach players in markets which ban online casinos and thus work as an alternative to the real money games. The past, the present and maybe even the future of social casino games looks very interesting.
The casino industry has grown quite a lot over the years, especially when talking about the online gaming part of things. A unique and interesting result happened from the popularization of casino games along with the growth of social networks and it has now reached a global industry worth billions of dollars, with countless players taking part in the action. Yes, we are talking about social casino games and how they continue to thrive on the internet.
Right from the start, we should mention that social casino games may be very similar to regular online casino games but come with several important differences. The main one being that players don’t actually wager real money on the games and instead use a special currency provided by the operator in question. This makes the games playable for free but customers also have the option to donate real money in order to have a bigger bankroll at their social casino of choice.
Often times, social casinos are linked to social networks, mostly Facebook, since they provide an easy way to talk to friends about the games and even play with them. While it is based on a free-play mode, the social casino industry is projected to be worth $4.4 billion across all its platforms in the year 2015 so it is certainly deserving of a closer look.
A growing industry
In the 2013, social casinos were already well established and several brands already had huge numbers of players on their social networks and mobile apps. A big chunk of the revenue came from North America, which had $1.146 billion in 2013; followed by Europe with $661 million, Asia with $521 million, Latin America with $320 million and the rest of the world accounting for $197 million.
Within the social games market, social casino games have a special appeal and they occupy a unique segment based on its audience and game mechanics. This also means that the growth of the sector is facing unique problems and questions but the overall trend shows a steady growth.
For 2014, social casino games continue to grow but the rate dropped a bit when compared to the previous years. Caesars Interactive continues to be the biggest player in the industry with a total market share of 21% across its multiple products offering social casino games. IGT’s Double Down is next and is also the biggest social casino available. Zynga continues to offer social casino games and there are plenty of other options for interested customers as well.
The current market is estimated to be worth $3.4 billion and the trend would make the figure go up to $4.4 billion by 2017 based on the predictions made by Eilers Research. Of course, in the $91 billion market it is just a small segment but it is stable and growing as it represents 4% of all the industry revenues.
Social casino games – a different product
As mentioned earlier, social casino games are very similar to their real money cousins found in online casinos. Basically, every casino game which can be played for virtual currencies on social networks or mobile devices is a social casino game. This includes blackjack, baccarat, bingo, slots and many more options.
With that being said, social casino games are also very different. Since they are not played for real money, they have access to many markets without having to face strict regulations. The perfect example for this would be the many players from the US enjoying the games on Facebook.
With their great graphics and the fact that new games can be released very often, customers can have the casino experience for free at any point. Developers for social casinos are not held accountable to the regulations which limit real money gaming and this means much faster development cycles where there is no real need to go deep in the mechanics, get patented models nor even work out the math in detail. Ultimately, social casino games are a developer’s dream while real money options are games with far stricter payout percentages, volatility rates and features.
Being a different product also means that it appeals to a different player pool. Social casinos have been very popular among a younger generation of players, and women represent almost half of the community; which is quite different than real money casinos.
It used to be that social casino games were just a way to buy time by major gaming brands while they wait for licensing to go through. The games would show customers what to expect once the light turned green but recent years have shown that social casinos are making their own money and are not just a stepping stone for big companies.
Candy Crush and other games have shown that there is significantly less stigma when it comes to using real money to buy virtual goods without the option to then sell items from the game back for real money. In-game currencies obtained with real money are now quite popular among gamers and social casino games combine it with the thrill and excitement provided by gambling.
Social casinos show very well that games of chance are not primarily about winning money but more about the games themselves. Also, it is proven that people tend to have far less restrictions when it comes to spending a virtual currency than real money, even if that currency was paid with cash.
Almost half of social casino players spend money
According to a recent research, almost half of all social casino players from the US spend money on the games. The study was made on 17 major franchises in the market offering these gaming options and the result show that 46% of the players spent some money on social casino games in the past 6 months.
This would put social casinos in the same conversion group as mobile players in 2014, when a report indicated that 46% of mobile players from the US and from Western European countries spent money on the games over the course of the previous 12 months. The results showed an increase from just 36% two years ago.
The research firm also took a look at the different demographics for the players who spend money on social casino games and found that the majority is represented by a male customer between the ages of 21 and 35. However, men only account for 59% of the market and the number of female players has been increasing over recent years. Those found in the age group of 21-35 actually represent 55% of all the playing audience in the US. When it comes to regular playing habits, gamers enjoy 5.6 titles on average in the genre and most of them spend between two and five hours every week on the title they like the most.
On the other side of the spectrum, the smallest group of spenders is represented by females between the ages of 10 and 20, only accounting for 3% of all social casino players who spent money on the games. Females between the ages of 21 and 35 represent 22% of all spending customers.
The study also revealed that players tend to have accounts on multiple social casinos and Big Fish Casino is the biggest competitor against the established franchises. Player bases from the big brands share quite a few people with the customers at Big Fish Casino and it is worth mentioning that this is the social casino where the games were likely to be least challenging.
Looking at the future
It is safe to say that social casinos are here to stay and they will likely continue to grow for the next few years. The segment remains fairly new and its unique characteristics can make a bit difficult to predict the future. However, there are some aspects which are very likely to take place and players can benefit from more variety as a result of it.
The first on the list would be a combination between games of chance and games of skill at social casinos. Skill-based play can appeal more to the younger generations since it makes the games more challenging at first but then become easier with the proper set of skills. Esports, fantasy sports betting and other types of skill gaming have already taken off and social casino games can very well be the next big thing. It is true that random chances make the games easier for all newcomers and they tend to have a lot of pull with older female audiences but skill-based options will expand the player pool when it comes to social casino demographics.
Adding live dealers to the social casino experience can make it even more entertaining. Table games like blackjack, roulette and baccarat have been added with real croupiers at basically all of the leading online casinos on the internet. There is no reason why social casinos can’t borrow these options as well and make it seem even more like the real-world casino gaming experience. There can be some issues in order to make the live dealer options more social with the help of the croupiers and poker seems to be the best choice at the moment.
Mobile is the future. This is true for various industries and it seems that social casinos are not excluded from the boom of smartphone and tablet usage. According to recent sales, it seems that tablets are declining in popularity and are being replaced by smartphones with bigger screens or even smart TVs. For a long-term happy customer, a mobile platform is a must and social casino games on new-generation smartphones can become a big part of the growing market.
Since we are speaking about playing games on something different than a desktop computer, we can also mention the potential found in virtual reality goggles for social casinos. These can basically put the player right in the center of the action and provide an experience unlike any other currently available. Such options can monetize really well since it makes the game more engaging.
The future may even see social casino games actually become social. Some of the biggest networks nowadays struggle to have a true social aspect for their casinos but players can very easily form communities and make friends while enjoying the games. And those who socialize more tend to spend more time at the casino and this can easily mean more money spent.
If the popularity of social casino games increases, it is very easy to see some social slots adapted for land-based casinos to cater to the demand. Some of the titles can be very entertaining and while they don’t offer a real-money payout, they have a lot of fans on the internet who might want to enjoy them combined with the brick-and-mortar casino experience.
The potential is there and it just remains to be seen how social casinos expand in the future. For now, they have shown they can be entertaining even without taking money into account.