Social gaming is a phrase that really started to hit the headlines when Facebook took the concept of social media to global levels. Suddenly, here was a platform on which people could do more than just hang out, exchange messages or share photos. They could indulge in pastimes together, in the same way as they might meet up at the bowling alley, pool hall or casino in the real world.
Yet contrary to popular belief, Zynga and Farmville did not invent the concept of social gaming. Long before the internet, people were playing games like chess or Dungeons and Dragons remotely, and likewise, as technology has advanced, so the social gaming options have expanded far beyond social media platforms. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Running on steam
The brainchild of Valve Corporation, Steam approaches the concept of social gaming from the opposite angle to Facebook. Here’s a platform that is all about the gaming, but has added social aspects to the experience. As such, the gaming experience is top-notch, while the addition of Android and iOS apps to the portfolio allows its 18 million members can take their gaming on the go. The in-game chat functionality adds appeal for those who are more focused on enjoying online time with their friends than taking the games themselves too seriously.
It’s no secret that the online casino sector has enjoyed exponential growth over recent years. An explosion of new entrants means the gaming providers are constantly seeking ways to improve the experience for their members, and social gaming has become a big part of that. As well as sharing their victories with friends, they can join bingo tournaments or sit at virtual poker tables to pit themselves against other players in real time, just as they would in the physical world.
Social network gaming
Of course, the social network platforms remain as popular as ever, and while they no longer have a cornered market in social gaming, their influence remains strong. Yes, there are still people out there growing virtual carrots, but a whole host of new games have arrived on the scene that follow a similar formula. Typically, these are simulation games where people look to build a city or civilization, cooperating with friends, exchanging in-game assets and, perhaps, teaming up to repel invaders.
The rise of eSport
eSport might be seen as a different gaming category in its own right, but conceptually, it ticks all the boxes and is, perhaps, the ultimate form of social gaming. Where else can gamers connect with friends, competitors and even fans so readily? There are numerous platforms devoted to eSport, but the best-known is Twitch. Here, gamers can set up their own channels, and some have even made lucrative careers from doing nothing more than streaming their own gaming activities for their thousands of followers. It’s a phenomenon that will only increase as gaming settles into its new role as our most popular pastime.