The Latest News on the Social Games Market in Europe and Emerging Markets


PopCap Games Launches Bookworm™ Heroes for iPad and iPhone

By Camilla Noon

PopCap Games, a worldwide leader in mobile and social games and a division of Electronic Arts Inc., today announced the global launch of Bookworm Heroes for iPad and iPhone. An all-new adaptation of PopCap’s mega-hit word game franchise, Bookworm Heroes offers head-to-head, on-the-go fun with friends, and takes turn-based word battles to heroic new heights. With a host of new features, and taking full advantage of touch screen capabilities, Bookworm Heroes is now available for free download on iTunes on a rolling basis worldwide for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

“We’re ecstatic to introduce the next chapter of Bookworm to iOS users in a new adaptation that brings multiplayer and social gameplay to what’s previously been a solitary player experience,” said Scott Willoughby, Bookworm franchise director at PopCap Games. “Bookworm Heroes adds a new level of fun and challenge among friends, plus a ton of extras that we believe make this the best Bookworm iteration yet.”

In Bookworm Heroes, players face-off with friends as they take turns building words from letter tiles to spell victory! Along the way, they’ll be joined by legendary heroes and magical pets who boost their word power and mess with their opponent’s letter tiles in wild ways. Key features include:

-Play head-to-head against friends via Facebook or challenge random opponents

-Heroes provide unique special abilities and tiles to boost word scores

-Powerful pets will add extra bonuses, damage or health

-Players can purchase coins to rent heroes and pets

-Tap Game Center for leaderboards, including Total # of Wins and Wins per Hero

-Share via Facebook to taunt friends and boast epic word skills to the world

-Push notifications give players a heads-up for challenges and nudges

-Players can earn coins just for inviting more friends to play


PopCap Games Announces Open Beta of Hidden Agenda™ on Facebook

By Camilla Noon

PopCap Games today announced the open beta launch of Hidden Agenda, a hidden object game (HOG) on Facebook, featuring a town full of anthropomorphic characters involved in a local murder mystery that you have to solve while working both cooperatively and competitively, with and against your friends.

“Hidden Agenda is a fresh take on the HOG genre, but deeply rooted in PopCap’s proven heritage, which includes the best-selling series such as Mystery P.I. and Amazing Adventures, among others,” noted Kurt Busch, executive producer and general manager of the Vancouver studio at PopCap Games. “With this new game, we’re extending the genre with a compelling story and rich characters, as well as great game challenges and social features that elevate the entire category.”

In Hidden Agenda, everyone has a secret. Players unravel the truth as a rift between two families (Rourke and Fairfax) threatens to tear a town apart. Behind the town’s pleasant façade, there are secrets to uncover where players will meet the ultimate challenge to solve cases that reveal new locations as they discover the secrets of the rival families.

With its mainstream launch next month, players will engage in Season #1 of Hidden Agenda: The Puzzle of the Poisoned Planner, featuring 12 cases, 48 hidden object scenes, a starring cast of 25 characters, hundreds of hidden object jobs around town, thousands of hidden items to find, dozens of quests to complete, more than 30 buildings, each with three to six levels to upgrade, and one cliff-hanger mystery to solve: who killed the Town Planner? Hidden Agenda will launch with an initial 6 cases (24 hidden object scenes), with plans for PopCap to release new cases every month.


PopCap Mobile Games Survey: Tablets are Bringing New Players

By Gary Merrett

PopCap Games, has announced the results of its third survey of mobile games consumption which found an overall increase in the mobile games market, a broadening audience, new opportunities unlocked through tablets and new developments in play and spending habits.

“Mobile games continue to vie with social games as the hottest sector of the video game industry and that trend shows no sign of waning,” stated Dennis Ryan, VP of Worldwide Publishing at PopCap, which derives more than a third of its overall revenues from sales of mobile hits like Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. “Smartphone adoption continues apace and tablet adoption has added considerable fuel to the fire. Even more important, consumers are embracing the shift toward freemium games and other add-on game content purchases, driving the dramatic and rapid shift in the forms of monetization being used by developers and publishers.”

The survey, conducted by Information Solutions Group, found increases in overall usage and frequency of mobile game playing among U.S. and U.K. adults. Projections from the data indicate that there is now an addressable market of more than 125 million people playing mobile games in the U.S. and U.K.

Following are highlights from the survey data; full survey results can be found here:

Mobile Games Market Expands

More people are playing mobile games: more than 4 in 10 (44%) of adults surveyed had played at least one mobile game in the past month – an increase of 29% compared to just a year ago. The ratio of new gamers doubled in the last three years: In 2009, 22% were new players and this year new players represented 44%.

Tablet devices are bringing new players: Nearly one in ten (9%) became a new mobile gamer in the past year by playing one or more games on a recently acquired tablet, indicating that the iPad, Kindle and other such devices have brought approximately 11 million new mobile gamers into the fold in the past 12 months.

Almost half (46%) of all video game time is spent on a mobile device: Phones and computers are the most common game devices (33% and 32% respectively), with dedicated consoles trailing behind at 18%. Frequency and play time have increased since last year: The number of people who play daily is up by 29% in the last year, from 35% to 45%. In addition, 22% play more than 3 hours a week, compared to 14% in 2011.

Tablets are opening up the audience, opportunities for the industry

Tablets are the new frontier in mobile games: Smartphone adoption among mobile gamers increased 16% from 61% in 2011 to 71% in 2012. Tablets showcase massive added potential for the industry: 36% of mobile gamers now own a tablet and 74% of the tablet gamers did not play mobile games previously.

Tablet gets a lot of play: 12% of all mobile gamers play only on a tablet; respondents that play games only on the tablet spend 31% of their device time on games, where phone-only players dedicate 24% of their device time to games. People who play on both devices log more game time on a tablet (40%) than a phone (31%).

Dual mobile device owners play more often than single device owners: 57% of dual device owners play daily compared to 41% of single device owners. Dual device players are more likely to be male (56% vs. 44%).

Spending and Gameplay Patterns Shift with the Rise of Tablet and Freemium

Free games and better phones are growing the market: Among the most popular reasons cited for the increase in mobile gameplay are the availability of more free games (70%), acquisition of a new phone with better gaming capabilities (47%) and purchase of a tablet (25%).

Monetization patterns: general spending data shows half (51%) of mobile gamers made mobile game-related purchases in the past year. 62% of these expenditures were for games, while four out of every ten dollars spent was for additional content and/or in-game currency. Players who spend money on mobile games are largely younger than 35 (48%), tend to play multiple times a week (86%) and are likely to own a tablet (45%). Also, mobile gamers who only play on a tablet spent 1.5 times more on games and game content than those who only play mobile games on a phone ($25.47 versus $16.68).

In May 2009 and 2011, ISG conducted similar studies of mobile gamers on behalf of PopCap; where applicable, historical data from those earlier surveys is presented below along with data from the newly completed survey.


PopCap Releases its First Casino-Themed Game on Facebook

By Regina Leuwer

EA-owned casual game developer PopCap Games today launched a slot-based social game Lucky Gem Casino. Exclusively available on Facebook, Lucky Gem Casino is PopCap’s first casino-themed title and will initially house seven custom-created luck-based games. The slot machine-style games available at launch are free to play with payouts occurring only in virtual currency and feature imagery and characters from other PopCap games including Bejeweled, Bookworm, Chuzzle, and Zuma.

“Casino-themed social games are one of the fastest growing genres on Facebook”, said Dennis Ryan, vice president of worldwide publishing at PopCap in a press statement. He continued: “The strength of PopCap’s game brands and the quality of the Lucky Gem product combined with our experience in luck-based games outside of Facebook means we are perfectly positioned to deliver the ultimate online free casino game experience – PopCap style.”

Lucky Gem Casino allows Facebook users to play alone or with friends. Players can compare their winnings, chat in real-time with friends, play mini-games and share game content. The games are free to play and players may purchase virtual currency in the form of Facebook Credits. All payouts are in virtual coins, which are not redeemable or transferable for cash.

Founded in 2000, PopCap was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2011. The company has a worldwide staff of more than 600 people in Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, B.C., Dublin, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.


Popcap Survey on Cheating: Social Games vs. Real World

By Sebastian Sujka

PopCap Games has unveiled the results of a survey exploring the habits of the more than 10 million people who cheat at social video games in the U.S. and U.K. According to the survey of more than 1,200 adult consumers, nearly half (48%) of people who admit to cheating in social video games also admit to cheating in real life — compared to just 14% of those who don’t cheat in social video games. From stealing hotel towels to cheating on their taxes, social game cheaters are nearly 3.5 times as likely to be dishonest in the real world than non-cheaters. The full report, conducted by Information Solutions Group, is available for download at 2011 PopCap Social Gaming Cheaters vs. Non-Cheaters Research.

The report discovered that 118 million people regularly play social games in the U.S. and U.K. — and of those, 11% of people who play social games in the U.K. cheat, compared to 7% of U.S. players who cheat. The report also found that although the total number of women playing social games outpaces men 55% to 45%, men are more likely to cheat in social games than women (54% to 46%). In addition, 72% of cheaters are under the age of 40.

“How we behave in virtual space and interact with others in social games often mirrors how we act in the real world,” said Professor Clay Routledge of North Dakota State University’s Department of Psychology. “With more than 100 million people playing social games regularly, we can expect to see the full range of psychological characteristics represented in the social gaming population — even cheating.” The survey also bring cultural differences to daylight: U.K. cheaters are significantly more likely to cheat on their taxes than U.S. cheaters (58% versus 33%)

“It’s not surprising that online cheating parallels real-world cheating, even if people are just experimenting with the possibilities,” said Dr. Mia Consalvo of Concordia University. “With more of our daily systems and processes moving online, and being divorced from human contact (downloading music, filing taxes online) the risks either appear to be lesser, or they don’t feel like crimes.”


PopCap Games Brings Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies, and Peggle to new Platforms

By Gary Merrett

PopCap Games has announced the immediate availability of Bejeweled for the Google Chrome Web Store. The game has been customized specifically for the HTML5 browser, with advanced 3d accelerated graphics and effects, and features two dazzling modes: Classic and Speed.

“Everyone is looking to HTML5 these days because it holds the promise of cross-platform development across all browsers and mobile devices,” said Giordano Bruno Contestabile, Bejeweled franchise business director at PopCap Games. “While it’s still early in the technology life cycle, we at PopCap are very interested in the potential of HTML5 gaming, and this game is one of the most advanced and impressive HTML5 games yet implemented.”

PopCap Games also announced today the first ever availability in the Android Market of award-winning game Plants vs. Zombies and Peggle later this week. “Plants vs. Zombies has previously been available to Android consumers via other compatible marketplaces, but this will mark its first appearance in the official Android Market. This is also Peggle’s first venture on Android and we’re thrilled,” said Tony Leamer, Plants vs. Zombies franchise business director at PopCap Games. “With the recent availability of Plants vs. Zombies on Kindle Fire, fans will now have access to the game on multiple devices and from several marketplaces.”


PopCap Games Launches New Games Label “4th & Battery”

By Gary Merrett

popcap logoPopCap Games has announced the formation of “4th & Battery”, a new experimental label where PopCap’s designers and developers have free reign to create smaller, simpler and edgier games without the typical constraints. Named after the Seattle, Washington intersection where PopCap’s Seattle headquarters are located, 4th & Battery has introduced its first game, “Unpleasant Horse”. “

4th & Battery is a pressure valve intended to keep our heads from exploding,” explained Ed Allard, Executive Vice President of Studios at PopCap. “The PopCap brand has become closely associated with ultra-high quality, polish and attention to detail — which is a great thing. But our standard game development process is therefore long and involved, and doesn’t really accommodate all of the creativity pumping through our collective veins. 4th & Battery gives us a way to quickly try really strange or marginal ideas, and to give our designers a safe area to hone their chops.”

4th & Battery is expected to produce several games per year, primarily small-scale, arcade-style games for platforms ranging from PC to Facebook and iPhone. Some of the content emanating from 4th & Battery, including its initial launch title Unpleasant Horse, will be aimed at mature audiences. In the first game from 4th & Battery, Unpleasant Horse, players take on the role of a strikingly unpleasant horse with sports wings and advances through the game by destroying small birds and landing on more pleasant horses from above. Landing atop other horses enables the player to force them earthward into a perpetual meat grinder for extra points and special bonuses.


New Study on Social Gamers in UK and US

By Thorsten Bleich

PopCap, the Seattle-based casual game developer behind the “Bejeweled” series, today presented a study on US and UK consumers who play games on social networking platforms finding that, contrary to popular belief, the average social gamer is a 43-year old female.

According to the study, almost 24% of the 5000 survey respondents play social games at least once a week, indicating that the social games market in the US and the UK has grown to a total of almost 100 million popcap logoconsumers. 55% of social gamers are female while 45% are male and the average age is 43. It is notable that US social gamers tend to be older than their British counterparts, with an average age of 48 (38 in Britain) and 46% of American social gamers being 50 or older while only 23% of social gamers in the UK belong to that age group. In the US and the UK combined, only 6% of all social gamers are age 21 or younger.

The survey also found differences in the consumption of and attitudes towards social games between men and women. More women than men play social games several times a day (38% vs. 29%), and women are more apt to play social games with real-world friends than men are (68% vs. 56%) whereas men are more inclined than women to play with strangers (41% vs. 33%). Also, women are much more likely to play with relatives than men (46% vs. 29%).

The survey also provides evidence for the growth of social games. More than half (56%) of social gamers have been playing social games for more than a year but about one quarter (26%) only started playing social games withing the last 6 months. About a third (35%) of social gamers say their consumption of social games has increased over the past three months, compared to 10% who said it has decreased.

“This study establishes social games as a fast-growing and quickly maturing pastime for an enormous portion of the population,” noted Robin Boyar, founder and principal at Thinktank Research, a market research consultancy specializing in gaming and the digital consumer.

And these social gamers are playing with great intensity. Almost all social gamers (95%) play multiple times per week and nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day, suggesting that social games truly do get you hooked, though this is more true for U.S. players (68% are daily players) than for U.K.- based social gamers (55%). Social gamers´ most popular games for weekly or more frequent play are Farmville (69% of all social gamers who play Farmville say they play once a week or more), Bejeweled  Blitz (65%), Texas Hold’em Poker (63%), Cafe World (61%) and Mafia Wars (59%).

plantsThe survey also revealed the main reasons for playing social games. Most social gamers cited “fun and excitement” as their main motivation (53%). Stress relief (45%) and “competitive spirit” (43%) were next most popular respectively, followed by “mental workout” (32%) and “connect with others” (24%). Interestingly, only 17% of UK-based social gamers chose “connect with others” as a reason for playing, compared to 28% of their U.S. counterparts.

As for the social networks that users choose to play social games, attracting 83% of social gamers Facebook by far leads the pack compared to 24% who play on MySpace, 7% on Bebo and 5% who play on Friendster. Given that 49% of social gamers log into social networks specifically to play social games and that social gamers on average spend 39% of all their time on social networks playing games, social games have become a major source of traffic for social networks. As Boyar puts it,”With more than 80% of social gamers stating that playing social games strengthens their relationship with friends, family and colleagues, social gaming reinforces the core appeal of social networks.”

According to the survey, word-of-mouth is the most common way that social gamers hear about new social games. 57% of social gamers rely on a recommendation or in-game alert from a friend while 38% said they learn about new games from ads on social networking sites and 27% cited standard web searches as a source of information on new social games. Social gamers have played an average of 6.1 different social games; 39% have played between three and five social games and 13% say they’ve played more than 10.

Finally, the study revealed that 53% of of social gamers say they’ve earned and/or spent virtual currency in a social game, but only 28% have purchased virtual currency with real-world money and only 32% have purchased a virtual gift. Nearly a third (32%) of social gamers say they’re likely to purchase virtual items with real-world currency. A quarter of social gamers say they’ve been misled by an ad or other “special offer” tied to a social game they’ve played.

More detailed survey results and the survey´s methodology are available at