What Comes First: Social Connectivity or Engaging Mobile Game?

Insights & Best Practices

February 23, 2016


min read

Almost every mobile game on the market has a social media component these days. Even if it's not a built-in component, it's there on the periphery where players are encouraged to collaborate or compete with friends and family through Apple's Game Center or share clips of gameplay on Twitter or Instagram. It seems that the more successful the game, the more social interaction there is.But which actually comes first?the engaged gamer or the social media noise? We talked with Adam Als?n, an analyst at German mobile game studio Wooga, who recently did some research to answer this very question.[caption id="attachment_15730" align="aligncenter" width="1426"]

Wooga games

Wooga games[/caption]

Social connectivity does not an engaged player make

"The direction of causality is always hard to judge," says Als?n. "The classic 'correlation does not imply causation' is definitely a factor here."The mistake a lot of indie developers make, understandably, is to assume that integrating a social media module into their game will automatically create a more engaged player. Actually, Als?n's research found just the opposite.Als?n and his team at Wooga recently studied all of its games with social integration (at varying depths) to find out how the social features affect?player engagement. They looked at user behavior across millions of players using A/B testing, game comparisons and features."From our initial findings it does not seem that social connectivity creates engagement," he says, "but rather that engaged players are more likely to use social media features."Social features are still valuable, of course, but it takes an already engaged player for these types of features to add value to the game. Devs can't just drop in a Facebook sharing module and expect non-engaged players to suddenly connect on a deeper level with the game.

Social media is a marketing tool, not a player engagement engine

"In its simplest form, social media features are more of a marketing tool than a feature that improves the player experience," says Als?n.So what good are deeper social media hooks, like games that offer ways to collaborate or compete directly via tournaments, alliances, rankings and player-versus-player experiences?Als?n says that these types of experiences can be essential to creating what he calls "virality," where in-game social media features become a way to get the word out about the game. Players may not be staying in a game longer because of the social media add-ons, but they can become great advocates for the game without really knowing it."There have been several examples of indie games reaching success by going viral, and that's where social network integration can help," he says.[caption id="attachment_15729" align="aligncenter" width="1550"]

Clash of Clans on Twitter Counter

Clash of Clans on Twitter Counter[/caption]Supercell's multiplayer strategy game Clash of Clans has seen outstanding success, in part due to its social components. According to a Gamasutra report, the inherent value of creating "clans" in the game is what has increased engagement and virality, helping it climb the top grossing charts. According to analytics site Twitter Counter the game averages over 1,000 new followers on the social media site per day.Adding tournaments and clans isn't what will make or break a game's success, though. If the game is appealing in terms of gameplay mechanics, art style, and the like, it might get an added boost from players sharing or connecting via social media, says Als?n. One thing is for sure: Wooga's research shows that devs can't create an engaged group of players with social media if the game isn't already compelling."Meaningful interactions with other players that add value to the gameplay experience is what has the potential to strengthen player engagement," says Als?n.