Social casino games are one of the hottest genres of online gaming around today. The games are part of a niche in the social gaming industry that appeals to people who enjoy poker, blackjack, slot play, and other forms of gambling. Atari, the legendary video gaming corporation that began its run in 1972, recently announced its intention to get involved with today's lucrative social casino gaming market.
Atari: Recovering From Bankruptcy
Atari, which once breathed life into such iconic video games as Pong and Asteroids, recently pulled itself out of a steep bankruptcy by agreeing to pay its lender $3.4 million in cash. The lender, Alden Global Capital, will receive an additional $1.75 million from Atari's parent company, Atari S.A. In addition, the corporation's unsecured creditors have agreed to accept a settlement of about 10 percent of the $10 million they are actually owed.
The company had initially wanted to sell its portfolio of games to the highest bidder as a way to pay off its debts. After receiving only 15 bids on its library of games, however, executives realized it would be wiser to cover their losses in other ways. The entire Atari portfolio consists of over 200 games that have great sentimental value for middle-aged generations. In addition to Pong and Asteroids, some of Atari's most famous games include Q*Bert, Joust, Ms. Pac-Man, and Frogger.
In recent years, the company had focused more on licensing than game innovation. Today, Atari is ready to get back in the gaming saddle. Executives are hopeful that the company's new partnership with a virtual gaming company called FlowPlay will spark renewed customer interest in their business. By fall of 2014, casino fans will be able to find and play Atari-produced games on Facebook and the Web. The company is working hard to perfect throw-back games like Centipede and Asteroids with underscored casino themes.
Atari's "Logical Next Step"
CEO Fred Chesnais called Atari's involvement with social casino games a “logical next step" in the life of the company. Chesnais is hopeful that his company's retro-themed games, which he says will be “rebranded” and “refreshed” for modern audiences, will appeal to consumers across multiple generations.
Social Casino Gaming: The Female Trend
A recent survey by International Game Technology found that more than a third of all social casino gamers are female. This type of trend information is important for game makers like Atari and DoubleDown Interactive who use demographic data to cultivate products that consumers want. Case in point: John Clelland, a global marketer at IGT Interactive Group, has pointed out that, although poker is a traditionally thought of as a man's game, women are playing it in droves, too. Gaming companies that want to profit from their female customer base need to be aware that they have a female customer base. Female poker players are on the rise in social casino, Clelland commented. According to data, women in Hawaii and Utah are some of the most active social gamblers online. Women in Wyoming, conversely, tend to be some of the most conservative social gamblers.
Social Gaming for Charity
Social gaming does not typically drive in huge profits for individuals, but some charity groups have found a way to harness the public's interest in social gambling for the public good. Spin for Good is a charity group which encourages people to donate between $5 and $20 per gaming tournament. The money is then pooled into a "pot." When a tournament ends, the winner gets to apply the entire pot toward the charity donation of his or her choice. As a draw for potential customers/donors, Spin for Good also allows people to play online games for free.
Social Gambling on Facebook
Facebook is not only a strong means of communication used for many causes relating to gambling, as evidence this page, but also an hot spot for social gamblers who want to play casino games for free. Club Casino, produced by Atari's partner, FlowPlay, is a new Facebook site on which fans can play slots, bingo, solitaire, and much more. Users do not win actual money, but they can spend actual money to purchase virtual charms. The charms may be exchanged for new avatar hairstyles and clothing. Club Casino does not rely completely on customer money; it is also supported by ad revenue, and like most social gaming experiences on Facebook, users have the option of playing for free.
Bingo lovers can play Praia Bingo on Facebook. This game is supported by gamers' purchase of virtual bingo chips. Produced by Pipa Studios, the bingo games take place on an imaginary Brazilian beach. Assuming the role of a beach “backpacker,” players advance through different levels of a progressive bingo game and are taken through different beach scenes along the way. The game is available for free play on Facebook.
Other popular gambling games on Facebook include DoubleDown Casino, Bingo Blitz, Best Casino, and Slotomania. While the games are technically free, players can spend real cash on virtual tokens in attempt to win virtual prizes. Some critics question why a person would invest money in these games when there is no chance for a monetary return. Christophe Jenke, the COO for CrowdPark, explains it this way: “(The) human demeanor of challenging one another fits perfectly into the social network.” In other words, humans in a social setting feel compelled to compete with their neighbors, even when it's just for virtual avatar clothing or a handful of cartoon coins.
Social gaming is a booming industry, and social gambling is a profitable niche within that industry. Atari's stellar ratings and undeniable fame slipped for a few years, but executives are hopeful that the company's new involvement with online social gambling will breathe new life into the ailing company.