There is no question that social gaming emerged from casual games, which in turn have roots in advergaming; however, this does not mean that social gaming only serves to advance viral marketing purposes.
A new community update posted in Gamasutra, a website dedicated to the professional and analytical aspects of video games, explains that social gaming is more than just marketing disguised as entertainment despite its advergaming origins.
Advertising has always been a part of the video gaming experience. In-game advertising dates back to the mid-60s, when pinball machines displayed images of the Ford Mustang, one of the most iconic American muscle cars. By 1982, McDonald’s was already teaming up with Atari to develop cartridge titles to promote its fast food menu.
Advergaming came of age thanks to advanced browsers and Adobe Flash technology in the 21st century. Once Facebook found its rhythm in the mid-2000s, brands realized that their advergames could be more powerful if they included social media features. Zynga games such as Mafia Wars and Farmville proved the power of casual gaming when combined with social media.
The impact of including social media features to casual games gave birth to social gaming, which can be pretty effective in terms of viral marketing but does not have to limit itself to this objective. If anything, social gaming is about building online communities; in fact, King Games is banking on the success of Candy Crush to build a new social network.
In the end, social gaming is evolving past the point of being a marketing strategy and becoming a means to build online communities.