Social networking sites (SNS), particularly Facebook, have become notorious for their recent deluge of casual games like FarmVille, Pet Society, Bejeweled Blitz and more. For those of you out there that geek out over gaming trends in general: this isn’t news. What is news, however, is how these games are expanding beyond the realm of the Internet and onto your phone.
Zynga, the current leader of the pack (and potentially valued at $5 billion right now), has been working on incorporating SMS (texting) functionality within their games since December 2009. Recently a new feature has been released for their game Mafia Wars that allows users to receive notifications from the game but also play the game from any mobile phone.
Up until now, Zynga and many other casual gaming operators have been heavily reliant on Facebook. But this new feature opens new doors for these gaming giants to help us waste more time…I mean…play casual games . Not all casual games will be able to integrate with mobile phones via text – since Mafia Wars is pretty simple, and it’s already text-based, it converts very well to SMS commands. An example is texting “C” to MAFIA (62342) to collect the money from your New York properties. You won’t be able to text and gather all of your crops in graphics-based Farmville so easily. But it’s a start. And it opens up mobile gaming to those without smartphones and Internet accessibility.
This an important trend and a new window of opportunity for these casual gaming companies that have been stuck relying on Facebook because of recent downtrend in players. Since Facebook recently disallowed News Feed notifications to people who don’t sign up for them, it makes it harder for these games to virally spread to users who don’t already play the game. While the companies are already adapting to Facebook’s changes, there’s no telling how long they’ll deal with Facebook consistently pulling the rug out from under their profitable endeavors by getting in the way with privacy issues and…y’know..morals.
All of this just goes to show the ever-present rise of video gaming in mainstream entertainment and media..but more importantly, the rise of mobile marketing and mobile phone usage (and not just smartphones) for gaming/social networking. As this market continues to change by the hour every single day, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on the new opportunities showing up for advertising within the SNS and mobile space.