In April 2020, rapper and singer-songwriter Travis Scott held an in-game, real-time concert on Fortnite called “Astronomical”—complete with tour dates, a virtual stage constructed on an island, and surreal visuals for the players who logged in to attend. The Fortnite concert drew 12.3 million viewers, further confirming a universal truth in this industry: gamers seek social interaction .
Many social games such as Roblox and Minecraft also held their in-game concerts in 2020 [2, 3]. However, the idea of in-game events is not new to the gaming industry, and the record-breaking success of Scott’s concert is unsurprising for a few reasons. At around the same time the events happened, social distancing measures were enforced, which abruptly deprived people of in-person social interaction. Epic Games addressed this by replicating the real-world concert-going experience, allowing gamers to play Fortnite while waiting for the event to start. Because the concert took place in an MMORPG environment where chat is a main part of the experience, players, and the developers and musicians who participated were able to interact with one another on both public and private chat channels. Players’ avatars could dance to the music or “emote” by waving flaming mic stands over their heads, adding to that feeling of being at a real concert.
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There has also been a paradigm shift among gamers in recent years. According to TalkWalker, a social media analytics platform, the most popular keywords related to gaming are no longer simply about specific titles or consoles but rather about the people they play games with . This can mean that social connections between gamers, and the ability to interact and communicate with one another in-game, are becoming just as important as the gameplay itself.
Despite many countries easing lockdown restrictions as vaccines become available, the idea of games integrating more social features will not only become a trend but eventually a requirement. While new features, graphics, or the story of a particular game can be the springboard of interest for gamers, the social interactions and bonds created in-game often linger even long after gameplay is over. Online games can often transcend the digital world, impacting real-life connections and creating larger communities—strangers who were once opponents can become real-life friends or even lovers.
Having said these, social gaming , or the category of games that facilitate social interaction, has been identified as one of the key trends in the gaming industry for 2021. Like Fortnite’s series of concerts, many games will expand into a metaverse—a digital space where real-world events and experiences such as fashion shows, music performances, movie viewings, and more are possible . These inherently non-gaming events can potentially draw in non-gamers, increasing users’ number of a particular game.
One of the social games that broke records last year was Animal Crossing: New Horizons (AC:NH). This game is the fifth game in Nintendo’s ongoing social simulation series which started in 2001. AC:NH was released on Nintendo Switch in April 2020, also around the time social distancing measures were first implemented, and perhaps one explanation for its popularity . Users can hold virtual parties within AC:NH. Debbie Fong, a comics artist and illustrator, tweeted screenshots of her virtual birthday party, for which she planned a treasure hunt to make it more exciting and fun for her guests. People are also known to hold in-game weddings. Couple Sharmin Asha and Nazmul Ahmed were supposed to get married on April 20, 2020, so when they were forced to cancel it due to the pandemic, Nazmul used AC:NH’s features to make their wedding possible .
Europe also immediately caught up with the growth of social online gaming. Hiber, a Sweden-based social-gaming platform, raised €1.9 million in August 2020. The platform allows users to create 3D social games on PC and mobile easily and share them with the rest of the world without the need to learn any coding. Designed for social interaction, the platform lets users create traditional gaming content, challenges and tournaments, memorials, and personal messages, among others—all for free. When they received the funding, Hiber had 300,000 games from 250,000 monthly active users .
Social online gaming, which was valued at $162.32 billion globally, will potentially provide new opportunities for companies outside gaming in advertising . Products and services placements have to be incorporated seamlessly within the game, and the highly immersive nature of social games will ensure that you have a captive audience . Social gamers are also diverse in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity, which provides marketers with a wider audience pool. Gaming-related promotions may not be available at the moment for small- to medium- size business marketers, but as major platforms like Facebook launch brand tools, more social media in-game advertising capabilities will be possible soon .
However, as with any form of growth, there are still several things the social gaming industry has to keep in check. Given the growing number of players, the safety of the gaming community should be a top priority. Racist and sexist harassments are still prevalent in social gaming platforms and are a serious threat to industry’s growth. When gamers don’t feel safe, they can potentially jump to another title or platform—and needless to say, this will have a severe impact on a platform’s revenue.
To prevent this from happening, a robust content moderation strategy should be put in place to provide gamers with a safe gaming experience. TaskUs has been working with some of the biggest social platforms and game developers over the past few years. We have developed effective solutions for the pain points that often hinder companies from achieving their potential growth rate.
Our combined experience and expertise have allowed Us to be at the forefront of making the online community safer. While cutting-edge AI technology powers our content moderation service, at the heart of what we do are our content moderation (CoMo) Teammates, who tirelessly sift through egregious content to protect users worldwide. Given the hundreds of thousands of content our human moderators are exposed to daily, we have established a dedicated CoMo behavioral research team to ensure their well-being and to conduct studies that will benefit the entire industry. The team works in tandem with our on-site doctors and psychiatrists, who are available for all TaskUs employees to consult.
At TaskUs, we believe that a safe space for discussion and entertainment underpins a vibrant community of like-minded gamers, and we are committed to creating and maintaining that space for users everywhere.
If you’d like to know more about how we keep the digital space safe for everyone or learn more about our solutions which help social media companies, pay Us a visit here.