The mobile gaming industry will reach $98 billion in revenue by 2024, and 56% of the 2.3 billion global mobile gamers play more than ten times every week. With a booming industry, developers are also looking for ways to make mobile games more socially interactive and highly engaging for a broad audience. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about social mobile games. This includes the features that make mobile games social and examples of the top-performing social games.
What are social mobile games?
Social mobile games are a type of mobile game that includes social features, enabling players to interact with each other during gameplay via messaging and integrated social media. Games developers and marketers benefit from social mobile games’ ability to build a community and keep users engaged for longer, boosting ad revenue and ROAS.
Industry professionals have discussed the advantages of social gaming for over a decade. In 2010, American game designer Jane McGonigal spoke about how social gaming can help societies in her Ted Talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”. She said, “Gamers are virtuosos at weaving a tight social fabric. Research shows we like people better after we play a game with them, even if they've beaten us badly. It takes a lot of trust to play a game with someone. We trust that they will spend their time with us, that they will play by the same rules, value the same goal and stay with the game until it's over.” Jane concludes, “Playing a game together actually builds up bonds and trust and cooperation. And we actually build stronger social relationships as a result.”
How the COVID-19 pandemic helped the rise of social mobile games
The COVID-19 pandemic created a seismic shift in the way users around the world interact with their mobiles. With more time spent at home and fewer face-to-face interactions, mobile users have had a greater desire to engage socially via mobile games. In China, which had a national lockdown much earlier than other countries, downloads of mobile games peaked at 284.3 million in February 2020. The same trend could also be seen in other regions as they entered lockdown. Since then, social mobile games have offered users worldwide a way to stay entertained and connected throughout the global pandemic.
Writing for VentureBeat, Oren Todoros, Head Of Content at Comunix, explained, “One of the main reasons that mobile games have made such an impact during the pandemic, beyond being an inexpensive escape from reality, is their ease of helping people stay social while social distancing.” He went on to give key examples of this trend and outlined the reason for their success throughout 2020: “Party games such as ‘Escape Team,’ ‘Heads Up,’ and ‘Words With Friends’ provide a great way for friends, new and old, to come together, share a laugh, and just have a good time. With the new reality of many of us stuck at home right now, these games can be a distraction and a much-needed source of laughter during an otherwise serious time.”
Examples of social mobile games
Despite the game’s 2018 release, Innersloth’s “Among Us” experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in 2020 – becoming one of the most played online games in the world. The game takes place on a spaceship where a user (or several users) takes the role of an imposter who will eliminate the crew. It is up to the rest of the team to determine who they can trust, ejecting teammates based on their suspicious in-game activities. Gamers can play together online or over local WiFi with 4-10 players in each round.
“Among Us” is a social game where the imposter can use mind games to mislead other users. The ability to deceive users — while other gamers must complete tasks while performing detective work — has been critical to the game’s popularity. “Among Us” had 60 million daily active players in September 2020, with the vast majority playing the social game on iOS and Android.
“Clash of Clans”
“Clash of Clans” is a mobile strategy game by Supercell. Gamers are tasked with defending their village and planning their attack on enemy clans. The game offers a single-player experience and multiplayer tournament modes. “Clash of Clans’” social features can be found in “Clan Wars.” This is a matchmaking system that places users in matches with clans of similar strength and size. In 2019, “Clash of Clans” contributed to 42% of Supercell’s total revenue as players spent over $722 million on the free-to-play mobile game.
Launched in 2016, “PPPoker” is one of the world's most popular private club-based poker platforms. Users can create their own private poker club with “PPPoker” and play with their other gamers in their network. Players can also enter tournaments and try their hand against other gamers around the world.
“Pokémon Go” was created by Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. The franchise game uses augmented reality to let gamers catch Pokémon in their real-world surroundings. In 2018, Forbes declared “Pokémon Go” “the world’s most important game.” Upon release, the game was the fastest mobile game to earn $100 million and achieved more downloads than any other in its first month.
“Pokémon Go” players can also trade in-app purchases, gifts and Pokémon they have caught with their friends, recreating a key feature from the franchise’s other popular games. There are four stages of friendship that you can achieve with another player; Good Friend (reached after one day of friendship), Great Friend (reached after seven days of friendship), Ultra Friend (reached after 30 days of friendship) and Best Friend (reached after 90 days of friendship). The level of friendship achieved between two players unlocks more trading possibilities. Other social features on “Pokémon Go” include global events with exclusive perks and access to leaderboards.
6 essential social elements for mobile games
There are several social features that you implement to make this type of game interactive and engaging. Here are six features to consider when developing a social mobile game.
1. Chat functionality
Enabling your users to chat with one another is a great way to drive engagement and build a stronger gaming community. This will also eliminate any need for users to communicate using multiple apps, reducing the probability that they will leave your app. You can also consider how group chats would benefit gamers.
2. Activity feeds and leaderboards
This enables viewers to see the activity of the gamers within their network. For example, a user may want to know when their friend has a new high score, or has collected enough in-game items to complete a trade. This can also be as simple as displaying when connected gamers are active in-game and their overall experience points. In addition to an activity feed, you can use a gamer’s network to share personalized leaderboards.
3. Donations and user trading
Mobile gamers may want to trade items with fellow gamers in order to reach their goal. The ability to donate and trade in-game resources will incentivize users to join guilds and help new users enjoy the game with help from their community. This can also increase your revenue through in-app purchases. Pokémon Go’s trading feature is a great example of implementing user trading into your social mobile game.
4. Push notifications
Push notifications are a smart feature for all app verticals: 42% of mobile users keep push notifications enabled on their device and push notifications can drive growth and increase engagement by up to 88%. For social mobile games, you can send alerts when users are being invited to a game, when they have a new message in your in-game chat, and when they have received items from someone in their network. This is also a useful feature for turn-based games, offering an easy way for gamers to know when action is needed.
Users will need to opt-in to receive push notifications. You can also give users the option to select which alerts they want to receive. This will avoid irritating users with unnecessary updates related to their gaming experience. For best results, you should also personalize push notifications. It isn’t enough to know that your push notifications are valuable – you also need to identify how they add value to each user. Personalized push notifications ensure that you are targeting the right users at the right time with the optimal creative.
5. Guild mechanics
For mobile games, guilds are a smart way to connect users and build a strong community. These are in-game teams for your mobile game’s multiplayer experience. Guild mechanics allow users to repeatedly play with the same users and reach goals as a group. Depending on your mobile game’s nature, players can also use this feature to share resources to make the guild more powerful as a team. With this in mind, guilds are a powerful feature that will help enthusiastic gamers connect and increase their enjoyment of your user experience with a like-minded group.
6. Social media integration
Social media integration is a smart way to gain free exposure thanks to passionate users. In 2019, the average user spent 136 minutes on social media every day. A successful social mobile game is highly likely to have a presence across the most popular channels, which can be encouraged with social media integrations. For example, when a gamer reaches their highest ever score in your game, they should be able to share this across their social media channels easily. This feature will build your community and attract organic users who want to play with their friends.
Having a presence on social media also allows gamers to contact you for support, share user-generated content, and provide essential feedback to improve your user experience.