Online social gaming – or playing games on social networks – is about to go big this year. We’re talking one-billion-dollars big.
New York research firm eMarketer reports that the social gaming market is expected to pass $1 billion this 2011 – a 28 percent rise from last year’s $856 million – and that close to 62 million US Internet users will play at least one game a month this year.
The rapid rise of social gaming, according to eMarketer, will be driven by three main contributors: online advertising, online lead generation, and the implementation of branded virtual goods.

Last year, 53 million Americans played at least one game on a social network, a staggering number that can be attributed to the rising popularity of social games like FarmVille, CityVille, Pet Society, and the Mafia Wars Game, among many others that one would find on Facebook or MySpace. The number is expected to grow this year, along with dollars that will be spent by both users and marketers alike on virtual goods, advertising, lead generation (filling out a survey or signing up for a newsletter or promo in exchange for virtual goods). Ad spending, in particular, is expected to double in two years’ time – from $120 million last year to $271 million in 2012.
Said Paul Verna, eMarketer analyst and author of the report “Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Moves”: “Forecasts of audience and revenue growth present an opportunity for marketers to promote their brands through social games…. We expect to see more branded virtual goods as social gaming matures over the next two years.”
In a separate report by Market Publishers, an international market research firm, the global social gaming market was worth just under $1.5 billion last year. It is expected to reach close to $4 billion in five years, with the largest markets being China, US, and Japan.