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What’s driving growth in social casino?

Insight | Analysis

Having reported a 33% increase in revenue for 2018, KamaGames chief executive Andrey Kuznetsov outlines what he believes will be the key drivers of growth in the social casino market in 2019.

The social casino market continued to impress in 2018, growing 15% according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which recently estimated that the value of the industry now stands at an impressive $5.20bn.

At KamaGames we have grown for the last three consecutive years, and at the end of 2018 reported gross revenue of $76.4m, which saw us grow at more than double the rate of the overall market.

These results beg the question – what exactly is driving the growth of social casino gaming?

As mobile technology has progressed, its purpose has shifted from purely functional to partly recreational, especially in terms of online gaming. Where initially gaming was an activity exclusive to either computers or consoles, the development of the mobile gaming platform has introduced a new wave of games and, in turn, has given rise to social casino gamers.

According to App Annie, mobile games was the fastest growing sector of the overall gaming market in 2018, beating consoles, PC/Mac and handheld gaming.

Unprecedented choice
It also predicted that mobile gaming will account for 60% of consumer spend in 2019, up 35% from 2013. But unlike a time when mobile games consisted of few options, today’s users have millions of games to choose from and unprecedented access to these games anywhere they go.

Most players that are drawn to social casino are already somewhat familiar with the games. The industry has flourished because its operators then give their players new experiences with innovative variations on these games.

A prime example of this reinvention can be seen with our own flagship title Pokerist. We’ve introduced titles such as Split Bet Poker and Set Poker to keep players interested and engaged with something new, while still playing the casino-style games they love.

Another powerful driver of the social casino market can be personalisation – a trend which has dominated the majority of online activity in recent years.

In gaming, this can come in the form of reaching out to players with specific offers that operators feel may appeal to them based on their previous activity or through the use of personalised promo campaigns, such as the ones we employed throughout 2018. For us, this positively resulted in an increased number of paying users and increased average revenue per paying user (ARPPU).

Another boost for social casinos has been recognising how their players differ from real-money casino players and capitalising on that difference. As the name suggests, social casino players are driven by social engagement and operators have built their gaming model around this.

Creating communities
In gaming, socialisation focuses on the ability to interact with other players over the course of the many highs and lows of the game, engaging with them through in-game chats. For example, in Pokerist, not only can users engage with one another via chat options, but they can even send each other gifts and transfer dice throws in games like Craps.

We believe these socialisation opportunities are responsible for creating ‘stickier’ communities within our own app and have resulted in the steady increase of daily active users (DAUs), which now sits at 630k, a 23.5% increase from the previous year.

So what’s next for social casino games? For this industry, innovation is always the driving force.

In 2018 we released Teen Patti, a social card game popular throughout India. Games of this sort are something we can certainly see being expanded further by the industry as developers target emerging markets with regionally popular games.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) also offer fantastic potential for the market and will form an increased presence as social casinos continue to attempt to create a more immersive and realistic casino experience for players.

It has also been suggested that the next frontier for operators will be to branch out into other forms of competitive gaming, still within the realm of social. This comes with the rise of esports and sports betting and without saying too much, you can expect to see KamaGames make moves  into these fields in 2019.

Andrey Kuznetsov served as managing director for KamaGames for the last five years and as acting CEO for the past two, before being formally appointed, chief executive officer in 2018. In his role, Andrey is responsible for the planning and the implementation of operations across the entire KamaGames business on behalf of the KamaGames board of directors.