Travel back three years, and Facebook was the inevitable future of the video game industry. Big publishers like Electronic Arts and rising stars like Zynga were positioning themselves to grow fat on advertising revenue and microtransactions built by keeping Facebook users glued to their PCs, eyes-open on a browser window portraying an image of their happy little farm. As evidenced by Zynga’s implosion, though, social gaming on PCs is already old news, a sick market with less and less opportunity for creators to make a buck. Social gaming isn’t dead, it’s just moving. Just like they’re doing to the PC market, mobile devices are eating up the social gaming business. What’s more, mobile social gaming’s impact on core game publishers is growing by the day.
Research firm Cowen & Company compiled sales and traffic for social gaming companies on mobile devices and PC. They found that while certain publishers are staking claims on specific mobile platforms, all are pulling social gaming business away from PCs.
“We continue to believe that evidence suggests demand for PC-based casual social gaming is eroding due to the increased availability of casual gaming on mobile devices,” analyst Doug Creutz told GamesIndustry International.
DeNA, publisher of Rage of Bahamut, and its competitor Gree dominated Android charts, with 30 percent of the top 20 games published by one or the other. While Clash of Clans publisher Supercell led the iOS charts, Electronic Arts filled both the iPad and iPhone top 20 lists with games like FIFA 13 and Bejeweled Blitz.
Zynga’s titles like The Ville slid down the charts, though FarmVille 2 still managed to snatch up 6.5 million daily active users.
This shift is already having a significant effect on core gaming brands, not just the casual market that’s been social game publishers’ main source of business. The aforementioned Gree is developing a number of games in series more closely associated with consoles. Konami announced it had partnered with Gree for Metal Gear Solid: Social Ops, a mobile social game, at Tokyo Game Show. Gree has also produced the games for Square-Enix, including Emperor’s Saga, Demon’s Score, Nirvana of Genesis, and the upcoming Galaxy Dungeon. Disney partnered with Gree’s main competitor DeNA earlier this year to produce mobile games like Avengers Alliance.
Social games: Not the future expected, but still a major part of the video game industry’s future.