Online social game creator FlowPlay has cut a deal that allows its Vegas World social casino game players to spend money in the virtual world to raise money for the real-world nonprofit American Cancer Society during the month of March.
The deal is the latest in a trend that helps gamers do good, and it could provide a nice little boost for social casino games, which are a $3.4 billion business, according to Eilers Research.
FlowPlay’s users can purchase American Cancer Society-branded items that benefit cancer support services and raise awareness during the month of March. All of the proceeds for these items will be donated to the group’s Road to Recovery program, which helps cancer patients get rides to their doctor appointments. This is the first campaign of its kind for the American Cancer Society, which hopes to benefit from a dedicated community of millions of FlowPlay players. The deal comes a day after the nonprofit Games for Change and American Express released a mobile game to benefit national parks.
The American Cancer society deal comes on the heals of FlowPlay’s previous charitable partnership, where in-game item sales directly benefited Girlstart, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit on a mission to empower girls in science, technology, engineering, and math. FlowPlay makes both its own social casino games — with social features built-in that resemble a massively multiplayer online game, such as rooms where players can chat — as well as a platform that other brands can use for their own social casino games. I visited the company recently at its headquarters in Seattle.
Derrick Morton, CEO of FlowPlay, said in a statement, “Cancer is a disease that has touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. As one of the most established nonprofits fighting cancer and supporting patients and caregivers, and one that many members of our community asked us to support, the American Cancer Society was an easy choice for this campaign. In 2015, we raised more than $60,000 through similar in-game campaigns for other organizations, and we anticipate this partnership with ACS to be our most successful to date.”
FlowPlay’s first game, OurWorld, has been played by more than 35 million players, and is one of the most popular remaining teen virtual worlds with hundreds of thousands of active users. Vegas World is a social casino game where you can play virtual slots and other games. But you can also socialize with friends in rooms. High rollers can go to these rooms and give out free chips, which the players can take and spend in their games. The game monetizes well because the high rollers spend real money on virtual chips. Morton said in an interview with GamesBeat in January that the game has industry-leading monetization.
“We have the highest dollars per daily active user of any social casino game,” he said.
One of the reasons why players spend a lot of money in the FlowPlay games is purely social. The big spenders like to purchase items and then give them away to friends in social rooms, where players go to have virtual drinks, chat, and dance. Once the cheap players collect a lot of free gifts, they head off to the social casino games where they play. Morton said the company makes enough money with social casino games that it hasn’t considered making a real-money gambling game.
“It’s really exciting when a company comes up with a creative campaign to support an American Cancer Society program,” said Stephanie Christensen, executive vice president, American Cancer Society Great West Division, in a statement. “When FlowPlay proposed an in-game fundraiser for Vegas World, we were immediately inspired by the creativity of the idea and the opportunity to raise awareness within the game and most importantly to generate funds to provide rides for patients to get to their cancer treatment. We look forward to connecting with the Vegas World community and working with the team at FlowPlay to make this campaign successful.”
FlowPlay grew revenues 40 percent in the last year, Morton said. The company’s headcount in Seattle grew from 32 to 52, partly through absorbing mobile game company Absolute Hero. FlowPlay is working on a desktop and tablet game as a result of that. The company is shifting from Adobe Flash as a platform to a new bit-mapped model, which enables games to take more advantage of graphics processing units (GPUs).
FlowPlay provides the white-label social casino platform for Microsoft’s Zone Social Casino game on MSN. Other deals are in the works, and Morton expects quite a few launches this year. While the social casino game market has consolidated (the top five companies have the bulk of the market share), it’s still a good business with a lot of dollars generated per daily active user, Morton said.
“We’re able to carve out a really large niche,” Morton said.
Overall revenues for social casino games are slightly up, but audiences are slightly down.
“Everybody is choosing to be a little more efficient in marketing,” Morton said. “They got to a point where they spent so much money and were outbidding each other. Now they are stepping back, being a little more efficient, and are taking profits.”