Internet games may have been around for a while now, but social networking websites are apparently causing more people to turn online games than ever.

Apparently the rise in popularity of social networking sites like Facebook has attracted millions of people to games they can play over the net with their friends, often for free - something the owners of these sites think could challenge the more traditional form of console gaming.

As many companies across the world are struggling through the current credit crisis, it has been clear that the games industry has continued to thrive, with many internet games developers receiving big multi-million dollar investments in recent months.

And they certainly are pulling in the numbers. British company Playfish, which provides casual sporting games via Facebook, has attracted 25 million registered users in just one year.

Another game on the sight called Kidnap! managed to get 2.5 million new players in just the month of October.

Other popular games include Texas Hold'em Poker and Scrabulous with millions of players.

The reason it is thought that games via social networking sites have proved so popular, is the fact that people have a ready-made network of friends to play the games with, rather than people they don't know over the Internet.

"People prefer to play with people they know rather than strangers", said Gareth Davis, Facebook's platform programme manager.