In some ways, video games have always had a social aspect. Consoles from the 80s and 90s allowed players to team up or go head-to-head in many games, while PC gamers used local networks for a Doom collaboration or similar first-person shooters. Fast-forward 20 years and video games are on the verge of a new era. Social gaming is becoming a standardised medium for everything from mobile gaming apps to complex world-building online games.
The idea of combining social interaction with video gaming has created an entirely new culture of games, and is reinventing some of the most popular classics. One of the most addictive games to hit our screens was Zuma. Developed by PopCap, this highly entertaining ball-matching game got a social makeover with the introduction of leaderboards. Suddenly, you were no longer playing alone, but rather trying to work your way to the top of the leaderboard while the rest of the world did the same.
The Rise of Social Gaming
With the rise of e-sports and competitive gaming, just about every gaming developer has added a social feature to their game in some way or another. Whether it be a simple leaderboard, a collaborative game or a World of Warcraft type fantasy world where anyone can be anything, it seems players are hungry from social interaction through the digital medium.
This type of social gaming trend has made its way into the online gambling industry with the introduction of social casinos. While casinos are inherently social, the term social gambling refers to gambling on a social networking platform. At least, this is how it all started. Today, you get standalone social casinos, online casinos with a dedicated social gambling section, and social casinos housed on social networking sites like Facebook.
What are Social Casinos?
The biggest and most important difference between a regular online casino and a social casino is the fact that you cannot win any real money at a social casino. The gaming itself is free to an extent, and there is simply no option to win any money. So, what is the point of having a casino where you can’t win real money? The simple answer is for the sheer pleasure of playing the games. While it might not appeal to some, there are plenty of players out there that want to try their hand at video poker, slots or blackjack just for the fun of it.
The casino games themselves are exactly the same as the ones you would find on a full-blown online casino site. In fact, you might find that the setup is exactly the same, the types of games are the same, even the same developers would all be housed together with a specific theme. Obviously, it cost money to host a social casino, so where does the money come from? As with all social games, there are many ways to bring in revenue.
In-Game Purchases and Advertising
Firstly, there is the advertising aspect where various casino operators or game developers can punt their product for the entire world to see. The main revenue source, though, comes from in-game purchases. At social casinos, players are given a certain number of virtual casino chips for free each day. This varies, depending on the casino site itself. Once your chips are used up, you have the option of buying more chips from the site by credit card, debit card or web-wallet payment.
The fact is the more you want to play, the more you have to pay. This is no different to regular video games where players purchase in-game power-ups, cheats or add-ons that enhance the overall experience. Essentially what is happening is that the social gambling is blurring the lines between video gaming and online gambling. At least with social casinos, you can wait a day and start afresh with a whole new set of virtual chips.
Blurring the Lines
These blurred lines also move from video games to the world of gambling. There is a reason why Apple is demanding that app developers display the odds of loot boxes. Steeped in controversy, loot boxes have been deemed as a form of gambling since you never really know what you are going to get, even though you continue to purchase them day after day. The mechanism of continual purchasing of loot boxes has been linked to addictive gambling tendencies, which is scaring the living daylights out of parents around the world.
Social casinos are punted as casinos with gambling as the main theme. That being said, they are more like social video games where players can enjoy skills-based gaming and interact in a social environment without having to pay for the basic service. Likewise, video games are becoming more socially interactive with a heavy focus on in-game purchases. It’s often the case that players end up paying far more on in-game purchases than they would if they outright purchase the game.
Going forward, it looks like social gaming and social casinos will become the norm, as more and more players seem to prefer the competitive and social interaction than going solo.