You’re not alone… Ever.

It still seems strange to me that some industry insiders still refer to social gaming as a phenomenon… as if it’s a huge surprise that when offered the choice people like to play games together and be social. This reaction seems almost to suggest that gaming has always been a solitary pursuit that has only recently been ‘transformed’ by having more than one person playing together. Imagine! Two, four, even ten people playing a game at THE SAME TIME! Phenomenal.
Admittedly as a child I’d often set out the Monopoly board on my own, safe in the knowledge that as both banker and estate agent not only could I offer myself extremely competitive interest rates, but that I could also remortgage properties I hadn’t yet sold or – on less creative days – simply steal from the bank while the manager (me) wasn’t looking (or was I?). However, I only played alone as it was the only option at the time (sad isn’t it). Had there always been the option to link to friends I’d have taken it every time, but I wouldn’t have considered it stunning that I wanted to play with friends, just an obvious desire made impossible by 1970’s scientists refusing to develop the Internet (or teleportation). The selfish gits.
No one refers to live dealers and their growing popularity as a ‘phenomenon’; it’s just technology allowing us to do what we’ve always wanted to do (i.e. take croupiers back to our bedrooms). When I had a dial-up modem I was happy to see a pixelated wheel spinning around on the roulette table; now that I pay through the nose for super-duper broadband in my home I’d much rather look down the top of a girl bored out of her mind in Costa Rica. And… voila! Thanks 2013 – you rock.  

According to Dallas-based research firm, Reportsnreports, the social gaming market will grow at 15.96 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the period 2012-2016.  The research report “Advanced Analytics in the Social Gaming Industry 2012” flags the considerable potential for growth in the sector, noting that there are a number of drivers, chief among which is the need for strong consumer relationships delivered by the growing number of companies occupying different aspects of the business space, and the availability of advanced analytical technology to aid marketers.
Challenges facing operators (the report states) are high implementation costs, with the study showing that consolidation in the sector is likely, with larger and better-funded companies taking over less well developed “niche” vendors.
Perhaps what the industry needs to be wary of is implementation for implementation’s sake. One company offers live dealers, so everyone offers live dealers. One company lets you link with Facebook so everyone else has to do likewise. I’m not saying that this is a dreadful state of affairs, but it means resources are burnt as a matter of ‘must do’ autopilot converting existing systems to new platforms (or hiring bored-looking girls in Costa Rica). The issue to my mind is when is social gaming truly enhancing things and when is it an unnecessary development that is becoming standard and expected? Yes, I can now chat to other players at my online table as we take it in turns to tell Yolanda how beautifully she deals the cards, but do I really want to? Yes I could invite all my friends to the table from Facebook, but considering I don’t even know half of the people I’m friends with do I really want them sitting on my lap every time I dare go online?

The global report from Reportsnreports covers the ‘gamification’ market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years, along with a discussion of the key vendors operating in the market. Reportsnreports expects gamification growth to reach $3.6 billion by 2017. It is also estimated that by 2017, 80 percent of Global 2000 organisations will have gamified applications and processes.
However, regardless of how clever the technology is, do you really want to chat other people ordering their weekly groceries on Perhaps you’d like to play Scrabble with everyone else who’s browsing the online Argos catalogue at the same time as you are? Or perhaps you’d rather not be sociable ALL the time.
Bingocams struck me as an interesting idea when it launched a couple of years ago. Traditionally bingo had always been run in large halls with plenty of faces to look at, so why not make a social online experience that replicates this? Well I’ll tell you why not: because there’s nothing less attractive than being piped directly into the bedrooms of the world’s average human sitting in its underpants washing down yet another jumbo Mars bars with a can of Diet Sugar. As soon as some toothless hag grinned at me across her £2.50 win I suddenly thought I might not actually want to invite all my Facebook friends to come meet her. Perhaps we should all turn off our web cams and go back to pretending we’re 18 year-old cheerleaders from Texas. I know I did.
So… chill out Social Gaming ‘phenomenon’. Let’s just remember that games were great before they were social, and socialising was great before we had to play games with everyone.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have a date with a cheerleader I met while buying a Genesis album on Amazon. Wish me luck.