Game-makers discuss the future of 'casual games'
Millions of people who don’t consider themselves gamers play computer games from 1 to 20 hours each week. These people, who game developers call “casual gamers,” don’t play the hardcore PC games like FEAR, World of Warcraft, or City of Villains. They don’t rush out to pay upwards of $50 when a new PC action game hits the stores, and they put the lie to virtually every stereotype of computer gamers. But they constitute the biggest pool of customers and the hottest market for new games, and the attendees of this week’s Game Developer’s Conference taking place in San Jose, Calif. are getting serious about making games that appeal to this vast audience.
Casual gamers love free games—anything from word games like Boggle to Breakout clones—on MSN or Yahoo, where they don’t mind seeing the occasional product placement or corporate sponsorship in their game, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the gameplay. And if they like a game enough, they buy them, for a few bucks, or sign up for a monthly subscription where they get access to dozens, or hundreds, more games. They don’t mind playing on their PCs, but also play on their PDAs and cellphones, in the airport, waiting for a bus, or anywhere they have a few minutes to kill time.
At this morning’s session, developers and managers at some of the top casual game companies participated in a panel discussion on the future of casual games. The market for casual games seems set to skyrocket in the next few years, and developers crowded outside the doors in an attempt to get into the standing-room-only talk.
Among trends the panelists discussed:
Judging by the level of interest in the conference session, a lot of developers seem to be ramping up their focus on this huge group of gamers-who-don’t-consider-themselves-gamers. These folks can look forward to an explosion of new titles vying for their attention over the next several years. The trick for us, the gaming public, will be finding the gems among the multitiude of sequels, derivations, and clones of successful but over-hyped titles.