The Growth of Social
KamaGames’ Director of Global Communications, Sam Forrest, explains why poker offers the ultimate social gaming experience.
In gaming days gone by, the stereotypical (albeit fairly unimaginative) vision of a gamer was that of someone holed up in a dark room, devoid of social skills and isolated from outside civilisation. However, with the dawn of connectivity, the digital age united global audiences, allowing them to bond over common interests in music, movies and sports and leaving any notion of isolation for gamers firmly in the past. Following this evolution in gaming, single-player games dipped in popularity, whilst multiplayer and mobile experiences enjoyed an explosive rise. In particular regions of the world, socialisation with friends is a top priority for gamers. This is confirmed by a 2020 Newzoo report that estimates approximately 27% of gamers in China count socialisation as an important reason behind their decision to engage with a game. The same report states that 28% of players who identify as Ultimate Gamers in the US are also motivated to play for socialisation purposes.
One game that thrived in the new age of online multiplayer games is poker. In any form, poker is ultimately a social game which can only be further enriched by the presence of fellow players. Therefore, it follows suit that even as the game transitions into the online world, social elements would be a prominent feature in its construction and a significant contributing factor to the game’s success.
Social elements in poker and other casino style games are never more noticeable than in the social casino genre where players play for fun, not profit. Growth of social elements within this genre is reliant on a number of factors including player motivations, methods of interaction within the game, the presence of an authentic active player base and the availability of specialised events.
Communication is key
The realm of social casino is vast, with major competitors like Playtika, Zynga and KamaGames continuously refining their offering by raising the stakes in terms of socialisation opportunities for players. With KamaGames’ primary app, Pokerist, players favour social casino over real money online casino games chiefly for the socialisation opportunities within the game. The lack of cash-out option in social casino removes the ability to play for profit, catapulting socialisation opportunities and enjoyment of the game itself to the priority top spot.
The initial social gaming boom was heavily propelled by their popularity on social media platforms where players could share their latest win with friends and invite them to join in on the fun. Player chat options in social, multiplayer games are nothing new but like the rest of the industry, are constantly evolving. Alongside traditional text communications, players now have the ability to use emojis, animations and in-game gifts. In Pokerist, players use virtual, in-game gifts that range from t-shirts to yachts, making for some interesting interactions. Coffee can be sent to a player if the game is early in the morning or late at night, a helmet might be shared if the game is getting increasingly intense or a big win at the table may be acknowledged by the arrival of a bottle of champagne. In 2018, KamaGames launched Craps to Pokerist, giving our players the opportunity to transfer dice throws to fellow players within the game. Social elements like this help build the world of the casino in a player’s mind, allowing them to interact exactly as they would were they in a real bricks-and-mortar establishment.
Countless meaningful friendships have developed over virtual poker tables. Whilst some players use them as an easy way to spend time with existing, real-world friends, others use online social casino gaming to connect with new acquaintances that share a common interest, who may be long-distances away.
PvP Gaming increases socialisation
Social gaming is often built around communities of people from across the world and while some operators provide quality PvC interaction, there is no substitute for authentic PvP engagement. No matter the genre, the most satisfying feeling for a gamer is beating other real-life players. This could be through demolishing an enemy village in Clash of Clans, cleanly eliminating an adversary in Fortnight or in the case of social casino, emerging as the last man standing in a prestigious tournament. There is no comparison for the thrill of duking it out with someone who shares a player’s passion for the game and thirst for the win. This is why when social gaming operators grow through genuine user acquisition, they greatly increase the social experience for their players.
Giving something extra
One of the most effective ways operators have sought to increase socialisation is to give players more varied and regular opportunities to interact with their games and in-turn, fellow players. This includes the addition of new games, tournaments and features that attract new players to social media games. In recent years, KamaGames introduced Party modes to Pokerist and have since built ten different Party modes, each with their own unique twist on the traditional game of poker. As part of our monthly engagement calendar, we make a different Party mode available for a limited time every single week. This gives our players a virtual place to hang out online with their friends and the chance to play something unique once they get there, increasing the opportunity for socialisation within the game. Party modes, to date, have achieved this desired effect by increasing our number of daily active users (DAU), the volume of online users and also their retention rate, even after the mode has ceased.
Even if we disregard the various add-on features that companies like KamaGames include in their titles with the aim of encouraging socialisation, the ability to glean a sense of a fellow player’s personality is still present. Poker players in the social casino landscape express themselves in subtle but meaningful ways. Sometimes this is simply by how they play the iconic game itself. For instance, raising the stakes is a bold statement to other players at the table, while folding or calling conveys another tone entirely. These little plays have a cumulative effect as players get to know one another over the course of a game or tournament and affect how they interact with each other and the game in future hands. Thanks to the advance of digital technology and the seamless connectivity of mobile, this interaction is in no way dampened when the game transitioned to online gaming. In fact, this development has ensured the evolution of poker in social casino games, firmly securing its survival through connecting like-minded enthusiasts on a global scale and allowing them to share in the game they love.