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I shared some of my thoughts with the Social Casino Intelligence on the last 12 month’s work at the ISGA.

What do you think have been the ISGA’s biggest achievements since the merger with the Social Games Association 12 months ago?

One of the first things that we did after the merger was to release a set of industry best practice principles for social games operators and developers premised upon consumer protection, accountability and transparency.  At the same time we commissioned the first ever-comprehensive research into the evolution, use and impact of social games. Our aim was to bring more of an evidence base to the debate surrounding social games. These pro-active steps brought us a considerable amount of goodwill with policy makers and gave a clear signal that we were serious about upholding industry standards and addressing consumer concerns.

Taking the course of the twelve months as a whole I would say our approach stands out. We have responded to real needs from engaging with the different layers of gamers that we represent, taking on board the findings of our research and also talking directly to regulators and politicians. On the back of this ongoing dialogue we are launching a new set of best practice principles and have a new research project in the pipeline.

How have things changed from a regulatory perspective in the social gaming industry during that time?

Some of the concerns that were raised a year or two ago about young people playing social casino games have not been realised. Through the independent research that we commissioned and continuing to speak to other academics, the absence of evidence that that social games cause young people to gamble or are a stepping-stone towards problem gambling has become increasingly clear. We are now able to concentrate our efforts on other areas of consumer protection including in app payments and encouraging positive game behavior.

What were some the most important takeaways from the research you commissioned earlier this year?

 The research offers a lot of insight into the industry and its reception amongst consumers. Its overarching thesis is the importance of taking a broader view  – understanding that today’s social games played on mobile devices are simply the latest technology driven evolution in a long history of games.

 Taking that broad approach, the report explains how the freemium or “free-to-play” pricing model underpinning social games is inherently intertwined with the shifts in technology and consumer preference that have taken place over the last few years.  It is quite striking that the model has been discussed extensively in relation to in-app purchases, yet there has been little consideration of the underlying forces behind it.

A specific but very important point the report makes is that social casino games should be understood as a genre of social games. Social casino games do not enable people to win money and most players do not pay to play. Gambling conceptual frameworks are simply not helpful when trying to analyze the impact of social games, which are played and paid for differently. This finding was a backed up by the researcher’s consumer behavior survey. Consumers were asked the extent to which they could differentiate between social games and gambling – figures were consistently high for understanding the difference.

Another interesting section of the report is its review of a wealth of psychological studies. Many show the positive potential of playing video games – a counter to clichés of disconnected and anti-social gamers.

 Looking at current industry trends, what do you see as the ISGA’s role in the future? Is it as important as ever to have an industry such as the ISGA?

 The ISGA’s role is to continue acting as the voice of the social games industry.

The social games sector is constantly evolving as new types of games are developed and people’s interests and consumption habits change. It is our job to ensure that the interests and concerns of social games consumers and businesses continue to be properly represented.

 What’s next on the horizon for the ISGA? Are you currently in discussions with any potential new members?

 The role of the ISGA is the same as it has ever been – to promote and protect the interests of social games players and continue to further consumer protection in this this space. We are constantly talking to new members but we have nothing to announce at this time  – we are hoping to see a positive development of the ISGA’s best practice and consumer education.

The original article as published in SCI can be accessed here