Social gaming apps like Slotomania are big business in the United States, with most of their growth coming from mobile users. (Image: YouTube/Lucy Slotomania)
According to one recent report, play on mobile devices has also helped continue the growth of the lucrative social gaming market, providing fast growth for the biggest companies in the free-to-play arena.
According to a report by Howard Stutz of CDC Gaming Reports, which cited a research note from Eliers & Krejcik Gaming, the total social gaming market in the United States has grown by more than 18 percent in the first three months of 2018. Revenues have increased to $1.27 million over that period, with most of that growth coming from users who play on mobile devices.
According to Adam Krejcik, a principal at Eilers & Krejcik, the American market for social gaming has increased to $4.72 billion over the past 12 months, a total that’s up 20 percent compared to the previous year.
But mobile play is up even more, with revenue from smartphones and tablets having increased 25 percent over the same time period.
The social gaming industry includes countless games that feature free-to-play mechanics. Typically, players can enjoy the games for free to a certain extent, but can also spend money to purchase in-game currency or other benefits. While the Eilers & Krejcik report focuses on gambling-related games, similar mechanics are also found in many popular puzzle and strategy titles that are popular amongst mobile users, including titles like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans.
When it comes to social casinos, a few companies tend to dominate. The largest of all is Playtika, which controls well-known social gaming brands like Slotomania and WSOP. Also huge is Aristocrat Technologies, which purchased Big Fish Gaming from Churchill Downs for $990 million last November.
Court Ruling Concerns Social Gaming Operators
But the American market hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for these social gaming giants . In March, a federal judge ruled that Big Fish Casino constituted illegal online gambling under the laws of the state of Washington, finding that even virtual chips amounted to a “thing of value” being wagered.
While Big Fish Gaming was the direct target of the lawsuit, the ruling was certain to have an impact on the entire social gaming industry, at least in Washington. Sure enough, a number of class action lawsuits were filed against other social casino operators in April, with Playtika being among the targets. Other major players in the industry, including DoubleDown Interactive and High 5 Games, were also party to lawsuits.
While many play money gambling sites reacted by blocking players from Washington, the trouble might not stop there. Many other states have gaming laws that feature similar definitions of gambling, potentially opening up the possibility of legal action in other jurisdictions – something that could turn an isolated problem into an industry-wide dilemma.