DFC Intelligence is reporting that the free-to-play social/browser market will grow from $3.2 billion in 2011 to $7.5 billion in 2016. Virtual good sales will help drive that revenue, but having a community for your games and having them networked together is key.
"While the global F2P market is quite diverse, Zynga and Facebook have dominated the market in the U.S.," says David Cole, founder and President of DFC Intelligence. "Despite major investments in the browser and social network games space from companies such as Electronic Arts and the Walt Disney Company, Zynga has only increased its dominance of the Facebook game market in the past year."
Despite the importance of Facebook, opportunities for international growth exist on other social networks. "Outside the U.S., the market for games on just Facebook has not yet reached saturation and there are some major growth opportunities," said Cole. "However, clearly one of the biggest opportunities is reaching users in other social networks and companies creating their own network, as Zynga is looking to do with the Zynga Platform."
A word of caution from the report dealt with consumer fatigue resulting from too many game clones.
"Browser and social network games are targeting an audience that, by and large, does not pay for the product," said Cole. "The fact that many of these free products show a rapid drop off in usage shortly after release is a concerning trend."
"Browser and social network game publishers have been offering many 'me, too' products and players are trying them and leaving them faster,” added consultant Jess Mulligan. “To increase retention rates among paying players, especially on social networks, publishers need to offer something different and that means development budgets are going to rise.”