Playing a casino game without staking or winning money might sound counterintuitive, but it’s the premise behind one of the latest gaming trends to take the industry by storm – social casinos.
Our appetite for playing games and solving puzzles seemingly knows no bounds, especially in today’s digital era. So when you mix it with a genre where all risk and monetary loss have been eradicated, it’s easy to understand how free-to-play casino games have risen in prominence.
The thrill of casino gaming, without the risk
Whether they’re slots, bingo, roulette, blackjack, poker, or even scratchcard games, social casino apps are some of the most popular around. Jackpot Party, for example, rose to prominence in the hyper-casual gaming community and has since become one of the top 40 grossing apps in the Play Store, no doubt boosted by special offers like jackpot party casino free coins. Meanwhile, those free to play card games on Facebook have amassed a cult following, with some titles attracting over 1
By the end of the last decade, the social casino gaming market grew so much that it tripled in value, and is predicted to be worth as much as $4 billion (USD) by the end of 2020. Accessibility, ease of use, and that all-important freemium factor have been instrumental in transforming the genre into much more than a passing trend.
In some ways, it can be seen as the online casino revolution 2.0, opening up new and engaging ways for people to play classic games and appealing to a wide range of demographics at the same time. People play casino games because they’re fun and mentally stimulating, but they can also provide a challenge. While the real money gamblers will play for profit, free to play casino gamers play for the sense of achievement.
Most of these games are available on smartphones and tablets, making them an instant form of entertainment, and the added social elements of being able to play against friends or colleagues further increase their reach and appeal.
Girls just wanna have fun
While there have been numerous renowned female poker and casino champions throughout history, there’s still no getting away from the image of gambling as a male-dominated activity.
When the online poker revolution happened, it did help pave the way for today’s female champions, like Muskan Sethi, by giving them a place to practice and hone their strategy before diving into the often intimidating world of real money games. And in a similar turn of events, the social casino gaming genre is appealing to the female demographic.
Recent studies show that the most avid players of these games fall into the 35-44 year age bracket, and both the UK and US average player is, in fact, a 43-year-old woman. Those stats are of the social casino gaming genre as a whole, not just those “girlified” pink bingo apps. No, women are playing across the board, whether that’s in free poker apps, social slots, or social roulette.
They’re also the demographic with the largest spending power. 58% of female players make in-app purchases in these freemium games, and the top 70% who spend the most are all women.
Making full use of the freemium model
So, how do app developers of these free to play apps generate a profit, and how does the market reach extreme values like billions of dollars if nobody is staking money on the games they play?
Well, social casino apps are based on the freemium model. Open up any app store, and you’ll find the vast majority of gaming or entertainment service apps follow that are free, but with a tiny catch. The theory behind the model is that developers distribute their apps for free, but then monetize their traffic by selling ad space, and monetizing the app itself by selling in-game benefits, and subscriptions.
Approximately 20% of free to play app users spend real money across the board to purchase these in-game enhancements, including virtual goods and coins, boosters, extra lives, etc. Why do they do this? It makes the game itself even more enjoyable to play.
But the irony, of course, is that while these social casino apps remain free to download and play, a significant percentage of gamers will end up spending something either to get better at them or improve their in-game experience. They just won’t ever have the opportunity to win it back.