Social Network Game

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A social network game uses a social network as a starting platform. It's usually an asynchronous game that requires a certain amount of social interaction. The games are not only offered as browser games , but increasingly also for mobile devices. The term social game is often used synonymously. Due to the high number of players and sales, this is one of the most popular areas of the gaming industry. Market leader Zynga had 240 million monthly active users at the end of 2011 and had revenue of $ 1.14 billion that year.


Depending on how the definition was interpreted, there may have been certain precursors. The hour of birth of social games, as they are known today, can be set for May 2007. This month, Facebook opened its interface for external developers and applications. In April 2007, Mark Pincus founded Presidio Media, whose name he changed to Zynga in July. Today, Zynga has established itself as the market leader with around 40%. Other well-known companies are the German game manufacturers Bigpoint Games , Gameforge , Goodgame and Wooga .

As in other areas of IT, company acquisitions are an important expansion strategy. This is a means of gaining a foothold in the field of social games, especially for the large game developer companies. EA Games bought the company Playfish in 2009 for 300 million euros.

Business models

There are essentially three main streams of business models:


The commercial social games are games with which sales are to be earned. The user can either buy access to the game or certain game extensions and resources. The most established here is the freemium model , in which the game is free, but certain resources can be purchased for a monetary amount. This business model has spread rapidly in the field of social network games and the following phenomenon is evident: Sales are generated by a large number of customers with little willingness to pay. At Zynga, this topic can be easily illustrated: The turnover of 1.14 billion US dollars in 2011 was generated by over 240 million users. That means the average revenue per person is $ 4.75. It also shows that with 2.9 million users (approx. 1.21% of all users) only a very small proportion are willing to pay.

Multisided approach
In the commercial sector, in addition to income from players in many social network games, the business model is enriched by the involvement of external companies. There are essentially two ways to get involved in a game. The broader approach is to advertise the company, products or projects in the game. The advertising is integrated into the course of the game and shown to the player. The second approach, however, is a little more complex. Many social network games offer the option of getting in-game currency for free. In-game currency is money that the user can use in-game to buy various game add-ons such as: B.New buildingsin FarmVille . Via this menu item, the player is offered a selection of options in which he has to perform a certain service and is credited with in-game currency for this. So far, two trends can be identified. Either the player pays for a fee or with information. For example, it would be remunerated if he placed an order with Quelle GmbH for which he received additional virtual money. The other option is for the user to take part in a survey, for which he will also receive in-game currency after completion.

Indirectly commercial

These are games that are not associated with any costs for the user and thus offer all users the same gaming experience. The intention here is to gain the user's attention, for example to win him over as a customer. For example, to introduce a new lens, the Tamron company introduced the game “Tamron Island” on a website, which shows the user the Tamron products with a playful background.


These do not have any intention of directly or indirectly generating monetary income, but pursue other ideas, such as drawing the user's attention to a problem. These include, for example, the two games "Flutter" and "My Polar Bear", which the WWF brought out and offered on Facebook. In this case, specific attention should be drawn to environmental grievances. On the other hand, there are also other games that deal with a general problem. For example, the game “GreenSight City” is intended to stimulate discussion and debate on the subject of urban mobility. These games usually have a serious game character.


The reason for the emerging criticism of social network games can be illustrated by the following quote:

" Get users in the door to play free, then monetize the hell out of them once they're hooked.
IGG cofounder Kevin Xu

This expresses that the business model of social network games is essentially based on binding the user to the game in the first step and then exploiting him. In this context, there is also talk of a lack of social responsibility among game manufacturers, because a not inconsiderable number of young people under the age of 18 are in social networks such as Facebook. The multisided approach is therefore also seen as the company's idea of ​​enabling transactions with the game manufacturer for young people. Content that can otherwise only be acquired through direct payment to the game manufacturer can be used under the guise of purchases e.g. B. Orders in source or marketing surveys are disguised. Based on the choice of words to be able to earn “free” in-game currency, many users are likely to get involved in this business. The possibility of surveys in particular looks very lucrative at first glance. However, this ignores the fact that the point of disclosing information about yourself is an achievement. From this point of view, the player pays with his attention and the choice of words “free” is put into perspective.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Definition of Social Games at the University of Oldenburg
  2. ^ - definition of social games
  3. Statista - Monthly Active Zynga Users
  4. a b - Zynga sales and users
  5. Facebook history ( Memento of the original from May 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Zynga history
  7. Statista - Top 3 market shares
  8. Guardian - EA buys Playfish
  9. ^ In-game advertising in social network games
  10. Tamron Island - Example of an Indirectly Commercial Social Network Game
  11. ^ WWF - Social Network Games
  12. ^ Daimler - Social Network Games
  13. Quote about social network games from IGG co-founder Kevin Xu