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The freemium model and the growth of social casino games


11 Nov 2017

It’s no secret that a big challenge facing the casino industry is to enhance its appeal to the millennial generation.

We’ve previously considered the possibility of a partnership with eSports and the creation of faster-paced, multi-player computer-style games.

Freemium games are another type of game that have gone from strength to strength in recent years. These are free to play and are often downloaded to tablet devices or mobile phones.

Where money is made is through charging for additional features within the games.

Candy Crush Saga is one of the standouts in this model, played by 93 million people around the world at its peak.

In this game, additional features that a player may decide to pay include more lives, supplementary moves on a certain level or extra bonus features that can be used to clear candy more efficiently.

Meanwhile, back in 2015 it was estimated that the daily revenue being made by another freemium game, Clash Of Clans, was $1.5 million.

Social Casino Games

There are also a host of social casino games that have proved incredibly popular since the start of this decade.

Big Fish Casino offers a variety of games under one roof, giving downloaders the choice of blackjack, slots, roulette and poker.

For slots fans, Slotomania, Slots Casino and Scatter Slots have all had success, while World Series Of Poker has achieved well since launching in 2013.

Unlike real casinos, these games aren’t played for real money. All chips gambled are play chips, making it possible for everyone to start participating on a level playing field.

Rather than the monetary gains, players benefit from faster action, more engaging gameplay and general fun.

Granted, it’s a much tougher decision to call a £500 all-in poker bet with the bottom end of a straight when it’s real money being staked.

But it can still take substantial time to build up a suitable play-money bankroll and enough emotion and nerve is retained to ensure money isn’t just frittered away on thoughtless calls.

Where these games really excel is through the balancing of retaining the core product, which are the thrills expected of the game itself, with the extra customisations that enhance this further.


Many players will be more than happy to stick to the core product and playing in this way doesn’t hinder their prospects of achieving the same goals as everyone else.

For example, a player could complete Candy Crush Saga without paying a penny, but many of the more difficult levels are much easier to finish if utilising more powerful bonus items to help.

The same could be said of a social slot if a player was able to guarantee the positioning of a wild or scatter symbol on a specific spin.

Or in a hand of blackjack if a player could make use of special chips that allow them to see the dealer’s hole card or exchange an unwanted card for another in the deck.

Some players would gladly pay for an assortment of special items to help make winning hands and spins more likely.

Other customisations are of a different nature. It could be the opportunity to play on larger-stakes tables with lower minimum bets or to fast-track into later stages of tournaments.

Alternatively, some people would pay to have personal designs on their playing chips, to have more phrases available to use in chat boxes or to be able to hit the tables in a wider selection of cities around the virtual world.

These ‘extras’ could all be unlocked for free and made available naturally if a game was played for an excessive amount of time and certain achievements were recorded.

This could range from winning 10,000 hands of blackjack to placing a winning straight-up bet on every individual number on a roulette wheel.

But in the desire to compete with friends and peers, there is a temptation for many to buy them instead.


There is the argument that freemium games in general favour money over skill, with players simply able to buy their way to achievements.

However, it is these same players that effectively help to ensure the games have better longevity.

With basic computer games, they are bought to market and keen players pay a one-off fee to purchase them.

Invariably, these games are played for a period of time before being forgotten about. Also, if there are elements of the game that are frustrating, there is no way to improve them.

Freemium games obviously follow a different model where developers are driven by and rely on in-game purchases.

This makes it attractive for them to continually look to improve games to extend their shelf life and ensure players should enjoy a greater and more engaging gameplay experience.