[This was a featured blog post I wrote that was originally published on the front page of Gamasutra.com on 10/19/11]
With each passing month, social games are growing. Growing in userbase, growing in revenue, but possibly most of all, growing in ambiguity. The term “social game” is pretty vague. Most board games involve far more social interaction than games on Google+ or Facebook! However, since sites like those have become the most pervasive locations for online social interaction, “social game” has come to mean any game played on a social network. With everyone and their mom, kid brother, and next door neighboor on Facebook these days, just who is the “social gamer?”
Statistics and stories from the last few years demographically place the average social gamer as an aged 43 female. (See this Gigaom piece that references a PopCap survey.). However, this assessment is far from set in stone, and new data, research, and surveys are constantly reexamining the social game audience. One is a RockYou survey (shown below) that attempts to frame the social gamer as a younger, more male, and more achievement-oriented player; three things that go against what almost anyone whose studied the demographics before would tell you. What is unfortunate about both studies is that they establish a fairly static precedent of the current social game audience. Now, being aware what a specific community of players is currently attracted to is not at all a negative. Marketing depends on it. However, in that strategy lies the the unpleasant feeling that social games are already being designed specifically for the historic demographic of the social gamers, when instead they could be branching out into untapped demographics.