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Russian social network VK (formerly VKontakte) has taken a page from Facebook and rolled out an in-app gaming option, Direct Games. The company aims to boost its mobile gaming fortunes in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Akin to Facebook’s Instant Games offering that debuted in November 2016, Direct Games is an HTML5-based gaming platform available to users of VK’s Android app. It provides a selection of titles readily available to play solo or with other VK users without having to leave the social network’s app.
VK says it plans to expand availability to iOS users “in the near” future, at which point Direct Games would be a simple click away from a large swath of what the company claims is a total VK community of 95 million monthly active users. Most of those users are likely to visit the site via smartphone—recently, VK’s owner, Mail.Ru, said the social network’s mobile user base was 78 million as of December 2016.
Outside sources have also noted VK’s popularity among social network users in Russia. According to June 2017 data from Mediascope, nearly 74% of the country’s desktop or laptop internet users used the social network’s site—a figure much higher than VK’s nearest competitor, Odnoklassniki.ru.
VK’s standing among mobile social network users could be even higher in a country where 64.3% of mobile phone users and 70.5% of internet users will have smartphones in 2017, according to eMarketer’s latest estimate.
In addition to a large potential audience, Direct Games is available to a community where mobile gaming has become a fairly popular pastime. Among Russia’s mobile phone users, 45% played free games on their phones in the six months prior to Nielsen polling in March 2016—the latest available figure for that behavior but one unlikely to have lost steam seeing as the number of mobile game app users and time spent playing mobile games has continued to grow worldwide.
Mobile video game revenues have swelled in line with mobile gaming adoption in Russia. In 2016, mobile games were responsible for 34% of the $1.40 billion in video game revenues recorded in Russia for the year, behind desktop and laptop’s 44% share but bigger than console gaming’s 22% slice, according to Newzoo.
VK’s monetization methods for Direct Games have not been announced, but the gaming platform’s addition could help propel mobile’s share of gaming revenues ever closer to dethroning PCs from the market’s top slot.
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