The Merging of Console Gaming and Social Gaming

Mark Stephens

More evidence this week of the blurring of the lines between the gaming communities: the traditional “heavyweights” of the console world have basically quit trying to smack their “middleweight” social gaming challengers out of the ring. Everyone seems resigned to the fact that they all need each other, and the two worlds are merging into one….


Xbox Tried to Buy Zynga

The recent appointment of former Xbox chief Don Mattrick as CEO of the beleaguered social gaming company Zynga, revealed that Xbox has long been looking to add more social gaming features to its offerings.

In fact, Mattrick in his role as president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business reportedly tried to buy the company he’s just joined, back in 2010.
Back then Zynga was in its prime, attracting millions of users to their “copycat” games on Facebook. It seemed like a marriage made in heaven then, between a flourishing social gaming company and one of the established giants of the console gaming world with a huge user base.

Microsoft saw the way things were developing and decided that a company liked Zynga would bring Xbox closer to the future social-ness of gaming. Although the games were different, the huge amount of users was a massive attraction and, if the crossover could be made between the casual, socially played games and the more serious gaming platform of the Xbox, there could be an instant synergy.

Despite Zynga’s recent mighty fall from grace since 2011, the fact still remains that the worlds of the console and social gaming are moving closer together. We just have to look at the average gamer nowadays to see that….

The “Average” UK Gamer

It is often assumed that the “average” gamer is a teenager locked in their room, only coming out for an occasional pizza, an energy drink and a pee. However, a recent UK study by PIzwoo.com suggests that’s very wrong. The typical gamer profile is someone who is married, aged 35 and earns a salary of over 30,000 Euros a year. They own two consoles (Wii, PlayStation and/or Xbox), eighteen different games and they’re just as likely to be female as male.

What particularly interests us here is the social element of gaming that already exists with console gamers. The average “videogamer” has five online friends in the gaming community and almost a third of them have met at least one of those fellow gamers face-to-face. Almost a quarter play games remotely with other players – just like with social games on Facebook or a mobile platform. Almost one-in-five usually play with “online friends” who they have met through the gaming community.

So, for many serious gamers, gaming is not only integrated into their lives, but it is already a social experience that is taking advantage of the incredible connectivity that modern technology has provided. It’s no longer a simple case of battling against the guy sitting next to you on the sofa – and it hasn’t been this way for quite a while now.


What’s “Hot” in Consoles?

If we want to see the way things are going we just need to look at the consoles themselves. In the past when a new one was released, all the buzz was about functionality and graphics – how much better did the games look on the new console and how much more powerful were the game engines?
These days, the talk is not about improved technology for a more realistic gaming experience, but for a more social gaming experience.

In truth the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U are pretty similar technically to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. The focus now is on how they interact with social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and YouTube and how the gaming experience can be shared via these media. This applies to all the heavyweights, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The Console Crowd, Facebook Funsters & Mobile Magic

What the UK study found is precisely the reason why Xbox was considering buying Zynga a few years back and why we will see more merging between the console crowd and the Facebook funsters.

The trend for people to play games on mobile devices isn’t going away anytime soon – and smartphones and tablets are the ultimate in “social” devices. Yes, there will be console gamers who just prefer that way of gaming, but more and more the consoles will resemble other social media-enabled devices.

As more games are able to be played on higher quality mobile devices with better graphics, sound capabilities and battery times, we should expect the lines between the two worlds to become even more blurred.