Hardcore social gamers now outspend mainstream gamers 2 to 1

As a genre that has quickly gained popularity, hardcore social games present an important indication on where the social games market is headed next. After the explosive growth of the overall social games market in terms of users, the next evolutionary step centers on game companies targeting a specific audience segment rather than developing games for sheer scale.

Publishers like Kabam, which recently launched Kingdoms of Camelot, and Kixeye, the publisher behind Backyard Monsters, have aggressively moved into this emerging space. And based on our numbers, their bet is paying off. In Brazil, where hardcore social games are particularly popular, we recorded a monthly ARPPU of $22.36, up from $17.41 in February.

hardcore social gamers spending

Maturing of the Market

Arguably, the adoption of hardcore social games suggests a maturing of this market. While often assumed to consist predominantly of casual gamers, or even people who would not consider themselves gamers at all, current data supports the investment in more sophisticated and complex game play. Case in point, for City Building games, generally regarded as a more mainstream genre, we recorded a monthly ARPPU of $10.29 in Brazil during the month of March. Or, more than $10 below hardcore social games. (For ARRPU data on the U.S. market, click here.)

In addition to higher average spending, more complex game design benefits the overall lifetime value of social games, which, in turn, will improve a higher overall return. Richer, more compelling content, while more expensive to develop, will pay off long-term as gamers stay on longer, and spend more. After its initial growth spurt in the past 18 months, the social games market has begun to stabilize. And, consequently, a growing number of developers and publishers will shift their focus to more niche-focused game genres.

Of course, the big question is what this means for industry leaders like Zynga, and by proxy Facebook. Their  initial success has attracted a lot of competition, and rivaling publishers and platform providers will try to claim their share. Other hardcore-focused platforms like Kongregate already show high earnings, which will likely attract developers capable of producing more compelling game design. For companies that pride themselves on providing games for everyone, it may prove not quite as profitable.

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SuperData publishes monthly key performance indicators for free-to-play games. All quoted numbers taken from our Social Game Metrics module for March, 2012. Learn more about our social games research and monthly subscriptions.