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The “smartphone zombie” is real. People who walk while looking at their mobile phones even have special traffic lanes in Belgium and China. But what are those supposed “zombies” actually doing? Mostly, connecting with friends—about as human an activity as there is.

Texting, posting on Facebook, checking Snapchat—these are all social behaviors. A new study shows that mobile phone gaming tends to be a social activity as well.

The study, conducted by market researchers TMQ at the behest of Facebook IQ, surveyed adults in four continents about their mobile gaming habits. The results showed one thing very clearly: Mobile gaming is better with friends.

People are more likely to discover mobile games from friends than any other single source. 68% of game discovery took place on social networking platforms; 54% on chat apps. 34% came from word of mouth.

Once they find a game, mobile users are more likely to get hooked—and more likely to pay for a game—if it allows them to keep up with friends. On average, mobile users who spent money to play mobile games were:

  • 2.9 times more likely than non-spenders to pay for a mobile game if that allows them to compete with their friends.
  • 2.7 times more likely to keep playing a game for the sense of community.
  • 2.3 times more likely to quit a game if the community evaporates.
  • Twice as likely stay in a game for the social connections.

So there’s nothing zombie-like about the most fervent mobile gamers. And game companies must include social elements in their mobile games—unless they want to end up dead themselves.

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