The COVID-19 pandemic has, for many of us, had a profound impact on our daily lives, from how we work to how we socialize. As such, social gaming (whether playing alone or playing alone together1) has skyrocketed.
Social Gaming More Popular Than Ever
Even as vaccination rates around the world continue to rise, many of us remain stuck at home in search of social experiences. Many of us are craving human connection, and games are an excellent way to bring people together and build a lasting sense of community.
Why You Should Consider Adding Social Features
The more social your game, the more likely players will play your game and the more likely they are to play it for longer and more frequent intervals2. When done correctly and paired with regular content updates, a flywheel of gameplay (and ultimately revenue) is created.
All good live games have three things in common:
- Live events
- Social Features
The biggest trend in social gaming right now is live events. Aside from Fortnite’s famous Travis Scott concert which drew 12 million live, in-game viewers and has been viewed over 77 million times on his YouTube channel, another example of a successful event is Minecraft’s music festival Square Garden, which drew 130,000 attendees and raised $50,000 for charity.
Live events that encourage individual players to work together to achieve a common goal or goals are also excellent for increasing player investment. One excellent example is No Man’s Sky’s community research events, which have players complete a series of missions to help map the universe in exchange for rewards. Individual players benefit by earning quicksilver (a form of in-game currency3 only earned via community research tasks) that can be spent on exotic items that cannot be purchased using “units”, the game’s main currency).
Games offer a safe, socially distanced way for players to socialize with others anytime and anywhere. By making socialization via gaming a habit now, players are also more likely to continue to socialize this way even once the pandemic subsides. There are a number of ways to add social features to your game:
- Friend lists: Allow players to befriend one another and see who is currently online, making it easier to play with friends.
- Groups (including guilds and teams): Allow players to form social groups with existing friends or make new friends by joining groups, guilds, or teams.
- Leaderboards: Allow players to see how they stack up against their friends and rivals, encouraging friendly competition.
- Events: Live or limited-time events are an excellent way to encourage new players to check out your game and current players to return. Scheduled group activities such as live events are great for fostering a sense of community and, when leveraged effectively, can increase player engagement, drive IAPs, and boost merchandise sales.
- Tournaments: Great for building a sense of community through friendly competition.
While the “play together” model is not new, current trends have demonstrated its staying power. Popular play together style game Among Us has been downloaded over 350 million times (as of November 2020) and boasts 3 million concurrent players (as of October 2020). Making a multiplayer game requires a range of special technologies. Some technologies you should familiarize yourself with include:
- Relay server: Supporting turn-based gameplay while offering rewards, matchmaking, and leader boards to encourage friendly competition.
- Matchmaking: Depending on the style of your game, you may want to consider allowing players to be randomly matched against each other or use your matchmaking servers to create temporary teams of unrelated players, allowing players to complete group tasks.
- Deterministic multiplayer: Ideally suited for non-random multiplayer play.
Leveraging These Trends Effectively
Though many developers have great ideas for social games, even the best idea will fall flat without the right technology and resources needed to turn that vision into a reality. That’s where Beamable comes in.
Beamable offers a wide selection of drag-and-drop pre-fabs to add limited-time events and tournaments to games developed using Unity. By choosing to partner with a platform company like Beamable, you can avoid having to build social and other functionality from scratch, dramatically speed up your development cycle while also reducing costs.
Are you ready to add social features to your game? Download Beamable for Unity today!