One of the questions that commonly comes up when discussing the future of social gaming is the role that mobile will play in the evolution of the genre. The big trend, starting at the end of 2010, and continuing in 2011 is that of the convergence of social and mobile, with more traditional social games trying to expand their presence into mobile. We’ve asked guest blogger Leon Kitain who works on both mobile and social games to talk a little bit about the difference between the two platforms:
Mobile games tend to target a different demographic than social games. Just look at the income comparisons between Facebook and iPhone games below.
While iPhone users are generally quite affluent (47% 100k+), Facebook users tend to be primarily lower/middle class. Because of the difference in demographics, iPhone social games can actually explore more interesting themes, as people with higher incomes tend to be more accepting of experimentation. So while Facebook games mostly focus on Farming, Food and Shopping, there are actually successful social games on the iPhone that have Fantasy and even Science Fiction themes and have seen relative success.
Session Length/Frequency of Play
Traditional social games have more frequent engagement than mobile games and often longer playing times. For Facebook, The vast majority (95%) of social gamers play multiple times per week; nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day. For mobile, as you can see from the chart below, the frequency of play and the duration of play is wildly different.
Because of this, the design of mobile social games has to focus on shorter session lengths and less daily engagement. The same sort of appointment mechanics that dominate Facebook games work poorly on mobile because users aren’t as likely to keep those appointments. In fact, the social mechanics that are most becoming to mobile games are ones that provide instant, session based satisfaction.
The monetization vectors for mobile games vs. social games are a bit different at the moment. Within the social game umbrella, the prevalent paradigm is that the best way to monetize users is through virtual goods. Virtual goods have become accepted by users, and Facebook, as a platform, tries to do their best to make the purchase of these goods as seamless as possible. On the other hand, in mobile games, virtual goods have not yet become as ubiquitous. In fact, on the platform, both advertising supported games, as well as paid games are completely viable, something that has not really worked for social games.
Still, in the end, I think that we’ll begin to see social games and mobile games converge in each of these spaces. Android is driving the affluence of mobile gamers down, while the merging of mobile and regular devices (such as the iPad) is going to drive up frequency of use and number of sessions. In addition, I have no doubt that Apple will do their very best to push and optimize the virtual goods model, making that monetization path more appealing to developers, while at the same time, clamping down on the value of CPI models as seen with their recent campaign against the offerwalls.
Leon Kitain is employed at Electrified Games, a full-service game developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.