The Rise and Rise of Social Games in Asia Pacific

People living in Asia are recognised as the most engaged social networkers in the world. We spend more time on social networks than anyone else. This time is spent on a myriad of sites; from Facebook to Mixi (Japan) and from RenRen (China) to CyWorld (Korea).

Now, once you have spent many hours each month uploading photos, writing on your friends’ walls, and tracking down old school friends, you are more likely to have played one of the many social games available.

If, according to comScore in July this year, you are one of the 90 million people in Asia Pacific who regularly access Facebook every month, then it is likely you have at some stage done the following in the past month:

a) Murdered someone

b) Bred an African elephant

c) Harvested a crop of corn or fertilised your top paddock

d) Scared off some random zombies

If you answered yes to any of the above, in all likelihood you are one of the many millions of people who regularly play some form of social games on Facebook. (Or lead a more exciting life than me.)

The “activities” above can be better achieved in online social games known as Mafia Wars, Zoo World, Farmville or Plants, and Zombies.

Facebook is in fact now recognised as the largest gaming platform in the world.

Social games have opened up an entirely new audience that falls outside of what is traditionally thought of as ‘gamers’.

Women, mums, and people older than 25 have embraced games like Farmville and Zoo World and are playing these games in ever-increasing numbers.

There are a few reasons why this is the case.

First, social games are easy to play. You can take 20 minutes at lunch, access Facebook, and start to play. There is no software, controllers, or complicated maneuvers to endure. They are very easy to engage.

Second, most games are about things we find interesting in real life. Visiting a zoo, owning a bar or restaurant, going to a farm, goodies versus baddies – these are all things we enjoy, find engaging, or aspire to be able to do as humans. So naturally, we easily relate to them in a game.

Third, the ‘viralness’ (my made-up word!) of Facebook allows a game developer to promote his games to new users. While the game is being played a user can opt in to providing updates on their progress to their friends. Normally, once a certain task is achieved in a game or certain levels achieved then you are able to tell your friends via yours and their news feeds. This is how many people find out about social games for the first time.

Following on from the viral nature of these games, is the ‘social’ element of social games. (Funny about that)

People playing these games are tremendously engaged and cite as one of the main reasons for playing, the fact that they can play these games against and with their friends and family. The inherent competitive spirit in all of us to want to become better, stronger, and more successful could be manifested in a social game. The majority of games build in game play mechanics that allow and demand multiple interactions between your friends on social networks. All of the gaming companies are independent to Facebook and primarily generate revenue from the sales of virtual goods and advertising.

In Asia, virtual goods are something that have been generating revenue for many years. Tencent in China is a leader in the sale of virtual goods and generates around $350 million each quarter. The virtual goods market in the U.S. alone is on track to generate an astonishing USD $2 billion this year.

Social gaming is a dynamic sector and one that is constantly changing and adapting – which makes it ideal for marketers and advertisers. There are more opportunities to try something creative, eye-catching, effective, and engaging.

There are opportunities for advertisers and marketers, with some of the game companies, to market to this relatively untapped audience of gamers. In fact, the large packaged goods companies are one sector that has embraced and led the drive into advertising on social games across the region.

In social gaming they can connect with a highly engaged audience in an environment where the audience is highly receptive to their brand messages.

A final reminder – these gamers aren’t pimply teenagers; they are mothers, men, and women with high disposable incomes and ‘older’ than 25.

So get gaming and get involved. Be careful though, once you start it’s hard to stop.

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