Four of out ten US internet users play social games, according to a study from Kabam in May 2011. Who are those social gamers, and how do they interact – with friends and brands – online and through social games? A study released in late September by social gaming company RockYou surveyed 2,000 social gamers in the US about their level of social activity level online, preferred type of social gaming, and receptivity to advertisers in social games.
According to the survey results, social gamers are highly ‘social’ on social sites:
- they spend 13 hours/wk on social networks, and 9.5 hours/wk on social games
- 44% use social games “as a form of communication”
- they have 218 social connections, and have made 20 new friends through social gaming
- they have 16.5 ‘real-life friends’ who play the same social games they do
- 22% say they play harder because their online friends can see their score
The survey also asked social gamers about in-game advertising, real-world rewards, and virtual currency. Nearly one quarter – 24% – of social gamers have clicked on an ad in a social game and made an online purchase, and 18% have paid to play a game, or to get items in a game.
- 42% of social gamers say they would be more motivated to play a social game that offered real world rewards (coupon, gift card)
- On average, gamers spend $42.70 on in-game items or virtual currency
- A quarter of the survey participants report buying virtual currency at least once weekly
- 55% of players would rather earn virtual currency than purchase it with real money, but 14% have used real money to purchase virtual currency
- 45% are open to viewing in-game ads to earn virtual currency
- 41% will review the game or spread the word through their social network page to earn virtual currency
An eMarketer estimate projects that virtual goods revenues will reach $653 million in the US in 2011, up 28% from 2010.
To get a clearer picture of the social gaming audience, eMarketer examined a study from Kabam in May 2011, which noted a split in demographics and behavior between casual social gamers (FarmVille, Bejeweled Blitz, etc) and more ‘hardcore’ social gamers (with strategy, role-playing).
Hardcore social gamers:
- were more likely to be male (55%) and under age 40 (57%)
- spent more money on gaming content
- 59% said they planned to spend more on social gaming content in 2011
Casual social gamers:
- were more likely to be female
- 40% were over age 50
- only 23% planned to spend more on social gaming content in 2011
Another survey by MocoSpace in September examined the ethnicity of the social gaming population through a comparison of mobile social gamers and those who pay for virtual content. Blacks represented 36% of mobile social gamers, while Hispanics represented 31%, and whites only 18%. A significant portion of virtual currency purchasers were black – 38% – while Hispanics represented only 21% of virtual goods buyers. Whites purchased a disproportionately high amount of virtual goods – 26% – considering their small share out of total mobile gamers.
Michael Dowling, CEO of Interpret (the company that conducted the RockYou research) says “Social gamers are a population who have gone from zero to 37 million in the US in just a few short years” creating a new audience that is “not well understood.” He believes that data from the RockYou study will help publishers, marketers, and advertisers to understand “how to best reach, engage and influence a unique segment of the buying public.”