In the past decade, casual gameplay in social networks has exploded. Juul calls this a casual revolution and indeed, it’s changing how we think about gaming. Candy Crush Saga (CCS), one of the largest interactive entertainment franchises of all time, is a free-to-play game that offers in-game purchases to players. It alone earned more money than all of Nintendo’s games during the first quarter of 2014.
King.com, maker of CCS, has 93M daily active users and over 1B daily game plays. King games have been installed 5B times on mobile devices. That’s a lot of candy being crushed. So, why pay attention to CCS, or other casual games embedded within social networks? Is this just the newest Tamagotchi, a passing technological fad?
First, casual, social, and mobile gaming shows no sign of stopping. Estimates suggest casual mobile gaming will be the most popular market segment in 2017, with an overall market share of 34% of all market segments. Second, screen segmentation means that marketers and game designers are connecting your game play activities across multiple technologies such as mobile phones, console games, and handheld devices. Their ability to segment you into groups based on your in-game behaviors is growing ever more sophisticated.
Finally, the number of paying consumers is also growing exponentially. What are they buying? In-game items, also known as microtransactions. CCS earns an estimated 800K daily from in-game purchases. Microtransactions make up the fastest-growing segment of mobile game monetization. In the US, the money spent on in-game items will increase by 143% in four years to nearly $1.8B in 2017.
The combination of networked relationships and the monetization of player data in games like CCS is particularly intriguing. They work together to create surveillance environments where player data is used to create gaming elements, add-ons, and levels that can be unlocked for cash.
The exchange of your data for microtransaction opportunities doesn't have to be a problem as long as each party understands the transactional terms. But because of the seamless nature of data mining in social and mobile games, we are often unaware. It doesn’t help that we usually don’t read terms of service or privacy policies. It also doesn’t help that they’re often difficult to find, access, and understand. And, if we all read these policies word-for-word, we’d spend about 54 billion hours reading them yearly.