Social Gaming

Social Gaming: The Rise of Casual Connected Play


Social gaming has taken the world by storm in recent years. With billions of people now playing social games regularly on their phones and computers, this new form of connected casual play has completely changed the video game landscape.

The Origins of Social Games

The earliest social games started appearing in the mid-2000s as gaming moved online and basic multiplayer and community features were incorporated into casual browser and mobile titles. Games like FarmVille on Facebook allowed people to interact with friends through simple mechanics like watering plants or helping on farms. These games were lightweight diversions that could be played in quick sessions throughout the day.

By removing intense challenges or lengthy campaigns in favor of more relaxed and accessible core loops, Social Gaming opened up gaming to a much wider demographic that was not as attracted to hardcore console or PC titles. Their social features also gave players a reason to keep coming back daily to check on friends’ progress and give gifts or assistance. This constant engagement helped drive explosive growth and profits for the emerging social games industry.

Evolution of the Genre

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, social gaming continued to evolve as new frameworks and technologies became available. Games incorporated deeper and more engaging mechanics, narratives, and multiplayer modes. Popular franchises like Zynga’s Mafia Wars and EA’s The Sims Social brought beloved game worlds and characters into social networks. Mobile platforms also began proliferating, allowing location-based games like Foursquare to incorporate real-world social dynamics.

New revenue streams also emerged beyond virtual goods with the rise of free-to-play models. Sophisticated in-game economies encouraged heavier spenders to subsidize enjoyment for more casual players. Live operations through constant events and content updates kept communities engaged for much longer. Successful franchises like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans accumulated billions of players worldwide.

By the mid-2010s, social elements had fully permeated both core AAA consoles/PC titles as well as mobile games. Multiplayer modes, clans, guilds, teams and leaderboards were standard in nearly every major release. Simultaneously, virtual worlds and games-as-a-service models matured with persistent online titles like Fortnite bringing together social, core gameplay and live service formulas into breakout global hits.

The State of Social Gaming Today

Today, social elements can be found to some degree in virtually all modern games. Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genres like League of Legends and Dota 2 showcase highly competitive social play at a professional esports level. Massively multiplayer online (MMO) experiences like World of Warcraft continue social adventuring on a sweeping scale. And on mobile, casual games with regular social reward loops like Candy Crush and Pokémon Go top download charts.

Outside dedicated games, social platforms themselves have also become spaces for play. Services like Twitch, Facebook Gaming and Roblox host immense creator economies and invite user-generated interactions. Casual asynchronous games are everywhere from messaging app stickers and Snap mini-games to Instagram stories. Even dating apps now double as venues for shared mobile diversions betweenmatches.

VR and AR technologies also promise new immersive forms of social presence within shared virtual worlds and activities. And emerging concepts like the metaverse envision entirely recreatable lifestyle activities blurring the conventional lines between games, communication platforms and even reality itself.

The Future of the Genre

Looking ahead, as technology evolves to bring people together in ever more advanced simulations, social gaming will undoubtedly deepen and expand. More sophisticated AI may automate elements of social play like lifelike companions. Immersive modalities may recreate real human interactions indistinguishably from reality. Persistent worlds could evolve past present limits into unending user-generated dreams.

New pricing models may emerge that incentivize cooperation over competition and place greater value on enabling creativity than microtransactions. Rules and norms within digital societies may mature to curb toxicity while uplifting diversity and civic responsibility. And socially conscious game design may channel networked leisure into strengthening real communities through shared works, donations and collective accomplishments.

Where once basic social functions brought people casually together in browsers or on phones, immersive worlds built for social presence may one day foster understanding between divided real societies at a scale never seen before. Though still in its relatively early stages of growth, social gaming’s trajectory points toward ever deepening global connections through play in the years to come. Its future remains unwritten but bright.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it