The casino sector is ever changing. Since online casinos burst onto the scene in the mid-90s, they have been at the cutting edge of innovation and development, pioneering new games, tournament structures, and new products for gamblers worldwide. Mobile casinos are a more recent addition to the line-up that has continued this trend, providing gamers with access to their favorite casino games on the go. Now, with social media one of the predominant cultural features of the age, it’s social casinos that are stepping forward to enjoy their time in the limelight.
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Social casinos mix elements from social media and social gaming with the tried and tested formulas of the casino world. In this combination, they create games and gaming platforms that are proving more engaging for players, and in many cases, more profitable for operators. But why are these social casinos proving so popular, and is there any limit to how far they can rise?
Features of Social Casinos
Social casinos are comprised of the same types of games you’ll find in any other online casino. Table games, slots, poker - they are all represented in social casinos equally, and to a large extent, the gaming side of the equation is much the same as with standard online casinos. But the fundamental differences lie in the supporting features, intentionally built into social casinos to give them the edge over the rest of the field.
Leaderboards are one great example. Social casinos often publish details of other players and their performance, which is excellent for spurring that bit of extra competition. Or in some cases, it’s all about completing challenges or milestones, and comparing them against your network, to see who is performing the best.
But other elements of social casinos distinguish them from the crowd, namely the option to play for free, or without the same level of risk associated with regular online gambling. While social casinos are still monetized, often through micro-purchases, for example for more chips to play social poker tournaments, the gambling element is in many cases a couple of steps removed, or non-existent entirely.
This makes social casinos fundamentally different - they are more about the social than they are about the casino. While many rely on standard casino-style games, it’s in the marketing of extras, tournament entry fees, and other ancillary payments that the operators generate their revenues. This makes for a naturally more appealing mass-market offer, which speaks to demographics much more broadly than your average online casino gambler.
Why These Are Working Well For The Industry
Social gaming more broadly is a vast and growing sector. Games like FarmVille, Angry Birds and others have already blazed the trail as far as light-touch, casual social gaming is concerned, and their incredible success has paved the way for others to follow suit. Social casinos can employ similar tactics, building in a level of competition and virality than ensures these games get massive exposure - far beyond what would be possible with a straightforward, regular casino game title.
This allows operators to flex their muscle with alternative business models, as well as acting as evangelists for gambling proper. The games are highly engaging by default, low to no risk for the ordinary player, and incredibly useful in identifying new demographics who might be interested in casino gambling. Players love them, and they give operators the flexibility to try new things while supporting their core mission of finding more players and driving ever-increasing revenues. This combination is in no small part responsible for the increasing popularity of social casinos, and social gaming more generally, as it continues to gain traction.
Can Social Become The New Default?
Social casinos are probably unlikely to become the new default, and there will always be a market for the purer, gambling-centric style of platform. Of course, many regular casinos are already and will continue to adopt elements of social gaming to make their platforms more engaging. But the key strength of social casinos lies in allowing operators to reach out to entirely new demographics of gamers - players who might otherwise never have dreamed of setting virtual foot inside an online casino.
These players across gaming demographics are those that look most likely to be drawn to social casinos and their offerings, which gives casino operators access to new, potentially lucrative mass markets. At the same time, incorporating the social more heavily into traditional casino structures will help boost retention and long-term player value - more good news for the industry. As one of the most innovative sectors in entertainment, if not the broader web world, the online gambling industry will no doubt continue to pursue these opportunities, delivering significant improvements for players new and loyal.