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The Games People Play

Why social gaming matters to your business.

Amy C. CosperChances are, your neighbors are doing it. Your parents may be doing it. Your kids are definitely doing it. And, right under your unsuspecting nose, your employees are doing it.

And, according to statistics, you are doing it, too. A productive activity? Maybe not. A rich business opportunity? Absolutely.

Welcome to the world of social gaming, and pick your poison: zombies, falling buildings, Mafiosi, cupcakes and those ubiquitous farm animals. Social gaming is a result of the perfect storm of market dynamics and pop culture: The place where play intersects the overwhelming popularity of online social platforms, particularly Facebook. The trend rises from a sense of growing isolation, an increased need to socialize virtually, an increased need for escapism and a flailing economy.

Besides, social gaming is fun. People dig it. And where people dig something, there is opportunity. The meteoric rise of social gaming as a business and vocation is rife with opportunity. According to NPD Group, nearly 57 million Americans over the age of 6 have played a game on a social network.

In this issue we talk to a pedigreed entrepreneur--Trip Hawkins--who knows his way around the gaming landscape. Hawkins has spent his career studying games and leading companies around the notion of game enthusiasts. His philosophy is "everyone has an inner gamer." His up-and-coming company, Digital Chocolate, out of San Mateo, Calif., is gaining on the competition: note a staggering 455 percent increase in users during a recent five-month period. Digital Chocolate boasted 50 million iPhone downloads last year and now has 10 million players on Facebook.

The concept of social gaming may have its roots in Atari or, possibly, the Pyramids at Giza, but its outcome is as cutting edge as the holodeck from Star Trek. The concept pries deeply into the psychology of the human condition: to escape and go somewhere better--preferably with zombies and members of the virtual mafia (along with all your high school friends). But mainly, social games respond to this request: "Please take me somewhere else, let me share with friends and let there be commerce, trade, bad guys and vegetables. But for the love of all that is holy--get me out of here."

As Trip Hawkins says, "Seize the minute."

Amy C. Cosper
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy

Amy Cosper is vice president of Entrepreneur Media Inc., and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the November 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Games People Play.

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