The Rise of Social Gaming

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Japan Loves Them, And They Are Rapidly Expanding

At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, I was struck by variety of people that consider themselves gamers and come along to the show. Many of the booths were demonstrating social games and this got me thinking about how the expansion of the gaming population is motivated by the growth of social games.

Social game is the type of game used mainly in social networking services, where gamers can communicate with other gamers online. Most of us are probably familiar with Facebook games.

In Japan, social games have expanded so much, that it has become a strategy for game developers to welcome new users. I saw this at TGS with the launch of Taiko no Tatsujin, a social media version of the rhythm action drumming title. Big game developers such as Sony Computer Entertainment, Sega Corporation, Capcom, Koei, and others has joined hands with the Japanese social networking service Gree.Inc in developing social games.

Gree. Inc. website: http://gree.jp

You would be surprised by the size of the Gree booth (which is as big as Sony Computer Entertainment and Sega) and the number of people coming home holding paper bags written with the company’s brand name. I didn’t have the chance to take a look at their booth, but according to 4Gamer, the booth was so packed with people who don’t look like core gamers, that hardcore gamers would feel a little bit out of place there. They saw casual gamers of all ages, younger children and older people who were visiting the Gree booth to get serial codes of the games’ special items.

You can say that Gree is ruling the market of social games in Japan. The phrase of "please look for more information regarding this game in Gree’s booth" is either written in pamphlets, or often heard when big game developers announced their mobile phone titles.

The expansion of the social games market could also be heard at Bandai Namco’s TGS press conference, which stated that the number of registered social games users on their website has reached 10 million people.

"The social games industry worldwide can expand to three trillion yen," said Bandai Namco executive vice president Unozawa Shin. This is why he established a new company, BDNA, which is a partnership with the social gaming platform, Mobage, aimed at developing social games for Bandai Namco. Social gaming is serious business for the big developers over here. They’re cheap to develop and can reach a wider audience than traditional games, so who can blame the big companies for chasing the casual gamers.

As long as they don’t forget about the hardcore.

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