You may be surprised to learn that by some measures, social gaming is much larger than real-money gambling, yet not many of us know anything about social casinos or games. It’s no longer just about some Facebook farming or candy crushing – the line between real-money and social gambling has been totally blurred. We look into what’s caused the exponential growth of social casinos and how they’ve become so popular.
Whilst Droid Slots is all about real-money gaming, we can't help but notice the elephant in the room, and it’s time that we fully acknowledge the size of it. Industry reports say that worldwide, the social gaming sector is far larger than its real-money counterpart – with social versus real money boasting 170 million monthly users versus 50 million monthly users respectively. Thanks to this impressive number of players, social gaming has gained enough momentum that new casinos are launched all the time.
Social Casino Launches
One such launch was last week, when GSN Games, the social games branch of Sony’s Game Show Network, held a grand opening for its newest social casino. Available on iOS (Apple Store) and Android (Google Play), the GSN Grand casino looks like any other, ordinary casino that we are used to seeing on Droid Slots. But don’t be fooled: not only does the app feature games like Wheel of Fortune and Deal or No Deal, but offers much more in terms of gamification and user experience.
A personal concierge meets the players and guides them through the casino’s games, a limited number of which are available at first. As you collect game chips and experience points, you advance in levels and unlock more games – an exciting way to play mobile games indeed. In a way, social gaming offers more to its players, because they can connect and play with their friends. Creating a positive social vibe, thus keeping players much more entertained, is something that real money casinos could definitely do better.
Not only do the new social casinos themselves look dazzling, but their ability to attract such large numbers of social gamers is definitely impressive. However, real money gaming still makes more money as an industry.
Real money online and mobile casinos are worth far more, around $40 billion globally and social gaming is expected to generate less than half of that – $17.4 billion – by 2019 only. Still, the social gaming industry is booming and one great success story is Mirrorball.
Making Money Socially
Just recently it was announced that Mirrorball Slots, a social gaming app, has reached the 10m download mark and hit $50 million revenue mark. This spectacular app, featuring tonnes of graphically brilliant slots and great socialising potential, was developed back in 2012 by Plumbee, and it’s taken less than three years for it to achieve tremendous success.
But it's not only companies that work in the social gaming industry exclusively which have thrived. NYX Gaming and IGT both have social game developing branches, and it’s certainly a clever business move. People may fall in love with playing slots, or even particular slots, and make the transition to for-money games too. But even without the players transforming into payers, the companies are earning big from social gaming, mainly by offering premium services.
Paying to have access to more games, paying to get more coins or chips to play with, gifts and other similar services all cost hard cash. So how are social casinos not classed as for-profit gambling organisations and not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission?
Well, it all has to do with the fact that the players aren’t making any money. Win or lose, you are never going to see any of the cash that you spend at a social casino get back into your pocket.
Some social casinos have started to offer consumer goods, trips and other perks that could get the ball rolling on legislating and regulating this industry, but until then, the casinos are profiting heftily. They have much more leeway when it comes to their business models because they don’t pay POC tax and get to keep much more of their revenue. But it’s not only this that many are getting worried about; people who make the transition from social to real casinos often become problem gamblers.
The Big Issue
Don’t be fooled. Although it’s called social gaming, the social responsibility within the industry simply isn’t there. Perhaps the industry operation and casinos think that their players are safe, just because the stakes aren’t that high, e.g. £30 can get you nine million coins. But for some, even that becomes a problem.
Since the social gaming scene isn’t regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, there are no social responsibility requirements imposed on it. The immense popularity of social games and the blurring of the line between them and real-money games makes us think that some regulation is inevitable, because the consumers are left unprotected at the moment.
Unfortunatelly, the Gambling Commission have adopted a “watching brief” stance, although they have conducted quite extensive analysis of the industry. Until the decision is made to regulate, we are all left watching the social gaming sector, already huge, but steadily expanding and overtaking the screens of our smartphones and tablets, and becoming a very popular go-to form of entertainment among our friends.
Superdataresearch.com predicts that in 2015, the total spend on social gaming across all platforms will be in excess of $4.4 billion, so it’s certainly an industry to watch. However, if you ask us, social gaming will never be as exciting as real-money slots, not only because virtual money takes the thrill away, but also because you could never score that life changing jackpot.