Free to play games, also known as social casino games, might seem pointless at first glance. However, situated within the broader context of a business or marketing strategy, the role of free to play games becomes more apparent. Free to play games shouldn’t be thought of as just casino games missing an essential part. Instead, they should be treated as a way to engage new players and bettors who otherwise wouldn’t consider sports betting or casino games. This Slotegrator Academy article will present a detailed examination of free to play games.
For many people, the idea of playing a casino game or betting on sports is potentially intimidating. They might feel out of place in a casino, get confused by the rules of the games, or be completely mystified by the odds they confront in a betting shop. Trying and failing to decipher an odds board at a racetrack or betting shop could be enough to discourage them from opening a sportsbook account.
Free to play games make gambling and betting easy to access and remove the stress of staking real money on the event. Many social casino games are available through app stores or social media platforms, and free to play sports betting games are often available through media companies and the sports teams themselves.
This factor alone - the elimination of barriers for potential players - drastically increases the appeal of free to play games, and since their introduction, they have skyrocketed in popularity. By the end of 2018, worldwide revenues from social casino games had reached over $5 billion.
Free to play and real money games compared
While social casino games and real money games seem identical except for the crucial detail of payment, there are other differences. Players approach them with different mentalities. They might try free to play games out of curiosity or to test the waters before jumping in to the real thing, while experienced players visit an online casino intending to win real money.
A major difference between free to play and real money casinos is how they are used by operators. While real money casino games are a standalone product, free to play games provide players a gaming experience while steering them towards real-money casinos, making them both product and advertisement.
The level of analytics applied to the two types of game differs. While real money casino operators are mostly concerned with key performance indicators like revenue and return on investment, free to play games are more often analyzed at a nearly individual level to determine retention strategies and when to encourage players to make in-game transactions. According to some research, in-game micro-transactions are the single biggest indicator of whether a player will migrate from free to play games to real money ones.
Demographics and other statistics
Curiously, while real money players are more often male, social casino game players skew female. Social casino game players also tend to be mostly middle-aged.
Some differences emerge when demographics are broken down by gender, age, and type of game. Poker stands out as appealing to a younger and more male audience.
While revenues from social casino games are highest in North America, they are also increasing in Europe and Asia. North America’s higher social gaming revenues are likely due to the country’s tradition of anti-gambling legislation, a situation set to change in the near future.
Effect and conversion
Free to play games drive bettor engagement. Fans who haven’t bet on a game might watch half of it, whereas punters who have put money down on a game are much more likely to watch the entire thing. Free to play sports betting has a similar effect of encouraging fans to watch more of the game, and can convert casual sports fans into serious bettors by giving them an opportunity to engage more with the team they support.
Free to play games also help build databases. Sports teams that offer free to play games are able to accumulate data from previously anonymous fans, giving them the info they need to start the kind of conversation with fans that brands need for effective marketing.
For both sports betting and online casino games, a crucial issue for operators is how many users convert from free to play to real money games. Some studies have found that 20-25% of users in the US who played free to play games went on to play real money games, with that percentage rising to 30-35% in Europe. Studies have shown that social casino game players share some demographic criteria with real money online players, including income and education levels.
How companies can use free to play games
Free to play games can be a part of a marketing strategy designed to reach players who might not already be looking for a betting experience. For sports teams and media companies, free to play games serve the important function of driving viewership, and some of them even partner with providers to create their own free to play games.
For online casino and sportsbook operators, free to play games provide an avenue to create a new revenue stream. Social casino games have a farther reach than real money ones, as they’re unaffected by regulation. Social media platforms are one popular and effective channel for finding new social casino game players which can be converted into real money players. People who play free to play games are far more likely to play real money games than those who do not.
More and more, free to play games are used as a means of increasing fan engagement for sports betting and as a no-risk introduction to both sports betting and casino games, converting casual fans or players into serious ones by enhancing their experience.