The NPD Group, a market research company in its report titled ‘Social Network Gaming’ claims that 20 percent of the U.S. population have played a social game on a social network in the last 3 months. If you love hardcore numbers – that makes it to around 56 million.
For long I was also of the opinion that social games were played mostly by women, because of its casual nature….but apparently, this 56 million is split midway in US. Ok fine, not exactly mid way but at 53% women and 47% men.

The report also tells you what percentage of users paid for in-game transaction etc. For all that, you might want to read the press release of the ‘Social Network Gaming.’ Click Here

Social Games in India

US aside, the Social Game scene in India is also looking rosy. The Zapak & 6Waves team have joined hands, IndiaGames is also wetting its feet and ibibo has already placed one of its game inside Facebook (Check out Teen Patti) and tightly integrated another game titled Mumbai Underworld with Facebook. (Disclaimer: I worked with ibibo, till some time back)

The irony is that just 9-10 months back when IAMAI published its Report on Gaming in India it had to qualify the usage of the term ‘Social Gaming’ with this text in the bracket “gaming on social platforms like Facebook and Orkut” (see page 7 of the report). Social Gaming in India sure has come a long way since this IAMAI report.

According to varied reports floating around in India there are 85 million computers in India and 81 million people in India have access to Internet. As with all reports (didn’t somebody say, “Numbers are like mini-skirts…they give you a good idea but hide the most important parts!”) these could be inflated figures and might not be telling us the true picture.

At the same time, World Bank thinks otherwise. Here is how we compare with US & China in terms of people accessing Internet.

And why were we talking internet access numbers here? Just wanted to estimate how much longer we have to go before we have 50Million+ social gamers in India. 🙂

Here is my take on Social Games in India and abroad

1) Games have always been social. It is only since the computers have come into our lives that we have started playing alone (single player). Social Games is only a case of going back to the roots of gaming – playing with friends. So, if you planning on building a social game…look no further than the games that you played as a kid.

BTW, have you noticed that before the PCs we used to laugh with friends & relatives and now we almost always laugh alone – online jokes, funny status updates, funny videos, mail forwards.

2) In India, the growth of junta accessing internet on computers has slowed down and the growth of junta accessing internet on mobile is gaining speed (I don’t have stats to show, but know that it is true)….so if you building social games…build them on mobile first. By 2012, 3G will be in place and users will first opt for 3G to access porn on the go (as was the case with internet too) and social games has a very high chance of benefiting from the spill over.

3) Making a replica of a social game is easy. So expect a lot of me-too copies of your social games – happens in any industry with no or little entry barrier. If you didn’t know even your favourite social game Farmville is a picked up version of a game called Farm Town. Though, Farmville is definitely a better version.

4) Due to the fact that the most successful social games are today inside Facebook, the developers haven’t been able to build synchronous interactions. I think interaction between friends playing a social game is very important. Why can’t I chat inside Farmville with my friends who are playing the game? This interaction within a game will keep the users coming back to the game and make it a success. Almost all of us today have 300+ Facebook friends….and these synchronous interactions inside social games will break it up our Facebook friends list into smaller and manageable groups we can interact with.

5) Facebook will continue to grow, both internally and externally – what with 70 million users using Facebook Connect & 400+ Million on Facebook. Other social networks will definitely be out-numbered in every country (if not already outnumbered!) & for them interoperability with Facebook will become critical for survival. Moral of the story – if you want your social games to succeed, take them inside Facebook.

6) Till recently I was of the opinion that one should invest in building social gaming apps for smart phones. But not anymore. My change of mind happened after I read a report that said out of the top five OEMs in US – Samsung (22%), Motorola (22%), LG (22%), RIM (8%) and Nokia (8%) only Motorola and RIM have been successful Smartphone makers. Mind you this figures are for mobile phones being USED not SOLD. Which means….if we were to order OEMs by number of mobile phones sold they would stack up differently. To cut the long story short, the feature phones as they are called will continue to rule the roost for the next 1-2 years – and that’s the market you need to capture as a social games maker. When they graduate to smart phones, you could move too. If this is the scenario in US of A, India definitely will be behind in terms of Smartphones. Also considering, building a social game application takes 3-4 times more time than building the same game on a wap site, not to mention the fact that one has to build it for different handsets and different platforms….I would recommend going for social games on your wap site. That’s easy Kill.

7) Companies building social games should quickly get into branding them & selling them to advertisers. An advertiser interest ensures faster & a stronger push for the Social Game – in terms of advertisements & PR etc, and thus the game grows faster. After some time the advertiser leaves but the users playing the game stay.

8 ) While, this is at least a couple of years away…taking a cue from the Chinese and South Korean Governments the Indian Government could enter the fray and put in place regulations for Virtual currency too. The Government would want to avoid what happened with the existing pay-and-use services available on operators deck – and for which they recently set up tough rules. Just in case you didn’t know in China the QQ Coins of QQ Messenger are used to transact in real World goods…which I understand told the Chinese Govt is upset about.

Got any thoughts on Social Games globally & in India? Do leave your comments.