PokerStars PLAY: Is Social Gaming the Way Forward?

Poker Stars Logo

Last week saw PokerStars launch its popular poker app – PokerStars PLAY – on mobile. Where this app differs from the site’s usual mobile offering, though, is that’s a social poker app, meaning that players are playing for fun and not for real money. Is a foray into social gaming a big gamble for a company whose business model is based on proven success with real money poker, or does social poker make a lot of sense? We’ve taken a look at the new app and what it means for both players and PokerStars.

What is social gaming?

Many of us who spend our lives wrapped up in real money poker and gaming often fail to realise that there’s another side to online and mobile poker – the ‘free’ or social side. In social poker, players play ostensibly for free, and don’t play for real money – there is less risk, lower stakes, and for many people more fun.

Social gaming offers inexperienced players the chance to hone their skills before hitting the real money tables, as well as giving veteran players a place to take a break from the stresses of playing with hard cash all the time.

The new app

Those of you familiar with PokerStars’ Facebook offering may already recognise the name ‘PLAY’. The app has been one of the most successful social gaming apps on the website for some time now, and the move to a standalone mobile app is merely the most recent incarnation of PokerStars PLAY.

Available now on iOS and Android devices, PokerStars is no doubt hoping that the app’s impressive rating on Facebook of 4.1 out of 5 stars will mean the new mobile version will attract both desktop Facebook converts and real money mobile players alike. Aiding in this is the ability for existing real money PokerStars players to download the app and play instantly with their existing accounts.

The app feature the opportunity to make in-app purchases to increase the amount you have to play with, and innovative gesture based controls which mimic real poker play (similar to those found in Party Poker’s recently released Fast Forward app).

Will it be a hit?

Of course, it’s always tricky to call this kind of thing before it happens, but all signs point to the app being popular with players. Social poker and other social gaming is a rapidly growing market, and being on mobile just adds to the appeal of this app. The real question is whether the app with prove to be a useful money maker for PokerStars.

Despite allowing players to enjoy the game for free – meaning that the house takes no rake money from the pot – in-app purchases have become a valuable revenue stream in recent years for all styles of game, and there’s no reason why the PLAY app should be any different. Moreover, with the removal of running costs in the form of banking fees on payouts, there’s a good chance that PLAY could be a serious winner for PokerStars.


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