Who Is the Audience for a Social Game?


Raph Koster posted What social gamers look like, which reports on a study that PopCap sponsored to identify the profile of the typical player of social games.

So who is playing these games on Facebook and in other social networking portals? Apparently she’s 43 years old, may or may not be married with children in the home, works full-time, is college-educated, and plays other kinds of games, whether casual or hardcore.

You can dig into the 79-page PDF from PopCap to see the details yourself. Koster summarized a few key points in his post, too.

The study covers not only the profile of the players but also game play behavior, which sites and games were most popular (Facebook by a long shot, Bejeweled Blitz is possibly not accurate due to potentially bad data), social gaming relationships, and how often players spent actual money on these games.

That last bit is important for people who wish to make money creating Facebook MMOs. Less than a third of players have purchased virtual gifts for others. About 72% said they have never paid for virtual currency. While these might sound like poor figures, if you think about it, over 20% of the players are paying real money for otherwise free games. Are your shareware games converting at 20%? That may not be a fair comparison, especially since each player might only spend a few bucks, but there are various metrics available such as Average Revenue Per Player thanks to companies like Three Rings, famous for Puzzle Pirates.

What is also important is recognizing that Facebook is the primary social networking game portal. Over 80% of players reported going there. #2 is MySpace at 24%. Bebo has 7%. I find this reminiscent of Windows vs Mac vs GNU/Linux, although the percentages mentioned have some overlap. While most people are on Facebook, is it possible that targeting MySpace and other social networking sites with your games will mean that you will have a larger piece of a smaller pie? I’m only speculating, of course, but it’s easy to forget that Facebook isn’t the only game in town. Sometimes going in a different direction than everyone else is lucrative. Still, a smaller piece of the much larger pie of Facebook might be worth the competition.

While it’s no surprise that the typical player of social games isn’t a teenaged boy, does any of this data surprise you? Are any of the findings hard to believe?

One reply on “Who Is the Audience for a Social Game?”

The age surprises me a little (does every time) but what is interesting to me is finding out what the actually ARPU is for monthly active users.

Lots of scattered data but the ARPU looks to be really low if you do not have a very popular game (speaking for Facebook apps).

Lots and lots of metrics to consider but I’m currently thinking about trying my hand in Facebook development since I already make Flash games.

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