About Social Games

Today, the global social games industry is a thriving segment of the entertainment industry and digital economy.  It is estimated that worldwide over 750 million people play social games, which can be a relaxing and amusing form of entertainment.

People have always enjoyed playing games together and technology is allowing them to do so quickly, easily and in a fun and safe way. The rising popularity of social games is attributed in part to technological innovation (the move away from more traditional mediums such as desktop computers and game consoles, towards mobile devices and online social platforms) and changes in the way people access, play and pay for games (with freemium or free to play games rising in popularity).

Below we cover some of the Frequently Asked Questions about the social games industry.

What is gaming?

Gaming is often used to describe many different types of entertainment – from legally regulated gambling involving real money games of chance, to any type of game played on a console, computer or smartphone. There are many types of game, so to avoid confusion we refer to real money games of chance as ‘gambling games’ and other games as console games or social games.

What are social games?

Many people are more familiar with the console games, which are typically large games with a high upfront cost and played on a games console or PC. Social games are typically played online or on mobile devices and have a social element. The social element typically means people play with, or directly against their friends or they participate in leader boards, chat rooms or share and compare progress via a social network. They enhance game experiences by enabling people to play with or against others, either at the same time or asynchronously.

Who plays social games?

Social games are played by people of all ages and both genders. Gone are the days of the teenage male playing video games in their bedroom; it is everyone playing wherever they are. Most studies identify the average social games player as being early middle to middle aged and evenly balanced across gender. Player profiles differ across game and genre. For example, casino style social games appeal to an older demographic, whereas, strategy games such as Clash of Clans have an audience centred on males in the 21-35 category. Match 3 style game Candy Crush is renowned for its predominantly female and wide ranging age appeal. According to a recent study by Flurry, females aged 20-35 are the key demographic for quiz based and simulation games.

What are the different models of game?

Freemium – Game access and play is free, with certain additional and special features – for example extra lives, extra energy, tools or maps to expand the game experience are available for a real money payment.

Free Game – Game access and play is free of charge, with the developer’s costs covered by advertising within or around the game. Some free games are “Advergames”, which Brands develop for their customers or communities.

Paid Game – A player who does not want to see ads within the game they are playing can choose to pay for an ad free experience.

Subscription – A common game payment model, often used in console games or MMORPGs. A person who pays a subscription for a game may pay a monthly or annual fee for access to the game or to special features within it, such as extended maps or extr

How do people pay for the games they play?

People now have the ability to choose how they pay for the games they play using a number of different models. Despite amazing new technology that has taken games out of arcades and into pockets – people still play games for the same reasons as before. From a player’s perspective, today’s gamer gets a great deal. For most, the lifetime cost of playing a free to play social game with a few regular in-game purchases is far lower than the cost of a computer or console game.

Why are in-game purchases offered?

A person who is playing either a free or paid game can choose to buy, using real money, additional features or ‘virtual goods’ like extra lives, tools or maps which expand and enrich the game experience. However, the vast majority of games can be played without purchasing these extra features at any time throughout the life of the game play experience.

What are virtual goods, and why would anyone want them?

Virtual goods are items that a player can win, earn or buy using real money during gameplay. They are used to enhance in-game experience, and have no use or value outside of the game.

Virtual goods are not unique to social games – people can also buy them for console games or within MMORPGs and virtual worlds.

Virtual goods don’t have to be bought – they often take the form of virtual rewards that are gifted to players during their game experience.  They may give the player extra powers or allow a player to increase their “level” within a game more quickly.

How do people pay for virtual goods and rewards?

People now have the ability to choose how they pay for the games they play using a number of different models depending on their needs. Today’s gamer can trial a wide range of different games at little or no cost.

Many games use an in-game currency to help facilitate gameplay which has no monetary value outside of the game. In-game currency can be generated in a range of ways; players can either earn the currency during gameplay, or spend real money to purchase it.

What types of games are there?

Arcade Games – Coin-operated game machines usually found in amusement arcades, pubs or bars. Arcade games like pinball were at their most popular from the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. You often see these games simulated online or on mobile apps.

Casual Games – These are conventional online video games such as match 3 or Hidden Object games. They are generally paid for on a fixed purchase or a pay-to-play subscription basis on computers or using games consoles. Popular examples include Bejewelled, Little Big Planet and Wii Play.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game [MMORPG] – A genre of role-playing video games in which large numbers of players interact with each other online within a virtual game world. Popular examples include World of Warcraft.

Video Game – Games traditionally bought in one-off purchases, and played on a games console or a computer.

What are casino style games?

Casino style games are a subset of social games that allow people to play games that resemble the type of game you would typically find in a casino. Examples include roulette or slot games. An important feature of casino style games is that they are not real casino or gambling games, you can’t win or lose money in these games.

Do social games count as gambling?

Social games are not gambling games. Gambling games are licenced services offering people the possibility of placing a stake or bet with the chance of winning or losing money.

What about online gambling?

Online gambling games are licenced services that allow people to place a bet on a game of chance for the opportunity to win or lose money. Although some online gambling games may have the possibility to play with friends, we do not consider them ‘social games’. They are predominantly gambling services, which is their defining element.

What are children’s games?

These are games, which are designed for and targeted at children and where the average consumer of the game is a child. The relevant age range is typically under 13, in line with data protection practices.

What are direct exhortations in children’s games?

In EU countries, laws based on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive prohibit direct exhortations to children to buy advertised products. In the context of games, this essentially means pressurising or manipulating kids into making in-app purchases or persuading parents to do so on their behalf.