Emerging Social Gaming Markets: The FACTS

Over the past 18 months advances in technology have seen many countries outside of the US and Western Europe experience huge growth in their levels of engagement on social networks. For example, Brazil has gone from 13M to 30M social network users in the past year, whilst Turkey has seen a 534% increase in social gamers since 2010. In light of this it has been forecasted that over half the revenue generated by Facebook in 2012 will come from outside of the US. This is only helped along by Facebook themselves making efforts to capitalise on emerging markets, with partnerships like MediaTek who make software for low-end phones. This, they hope, will allow them to tap into some of the low-income markets such as India.

The word on the social gaming street is that the US and Western Europe are experiencing ‘Facebook fatigue’ due to the market reaching its full potential. This over-saturation doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities within these markets but brands who aren’t fine tuning their brand strategy in a continuous cycle are now experiencing a decline in consumer engagement on social networks. Some say that this is because the US and Westernized consumer adopted the internet for many different purposes long before social boom and therefore there is less potential to reach these consumers for e-commerce and advertising within the realms of Facebook etc. and it is the emerging markets where e-commerce is untested and new and the countries with the lower levels of internet penetration actually have the higher social network usage levels. Brands are able to engage with these consumers more because they have higher levels of trust in social networks and with the initial online contact between brand and consumer coming from within the social networks it allows more trust to be engendered through the perception of a closer ‘friend like’ relationship. As well as this in Brazil, China and India the online consumer are much more likely to use online networks for word-of-mouth recommendations enabling companies targeting such markets to take advantage of social user’s openness to engage with brands. Now this is all old news, we all know about the concept of personification and using social networks to ‘deepen the relationship’ but where the interesting part of this comes into play is that the higher levels of trust allow social networks to play a bigger role in the purchase cycle.

The new way to target the westernized consumer is through providing something that they can read or watch, they are not the type of consumer to create their own content. In contrast, ¾ of social network users in China and India create their own content like blog posts, video, stories and updates, therefore if you get it right in these countries the viral consumer led PR will allow you to sit back and embrace the shift from push to pull marketing. This is especially important since Facebook reduced the number of mechanisms that previously allowed for mass distribution to users newsfeeds substantially slowing the speed with which social games penetrated social circles.

 

As well as these reasons to shift your focus away from the Western world and elsewhere – facts like South Korea having a better broadband service, Australia having faster wireless networks and 66% of the population in Saudi Arabia playing online games; show that clearly the number of online consumers elsewhere will soon be dwarfing the numbers of those in the US and Western Europe.

It’s not just the researchers who have noticed how these trends are impacting on social gaming. To name just a few examples for illustration, last year Peak Games purchased two Turkish strategy games: Umaykut and Erlikhan and Zynga localized City Ville to target the Brazilian market as did World of Warcraft.

The market for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61% through to 2016, reaching $6.4 billion compared with $600m in 2011 shedding light on new social business trends that will bring culturally different markets closer together and more efficient.

In order to take advantage of international opportunities, gaming organisations need to pay close attention to the specific cultural background of each new audience that’s hit and appreciate that very different market require fine tuning brand strategies and adaptation of core messages and values to the local culture.

I will be exploring the opportunities for social gaming in Brazil, India, Peru, Mexico and Indonesia over the next few weeks looking at specific online behaviour and culture. First stop: Brazil!

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