The Rise of Casual Gaming
THE TERM “GAMER” APPLIES TO MORE PEOPLE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE.The word used to be reserved for someone heavily invested in traditional video games, in terms of both time and money. With the growing popularity of smartphones, personal media players capable of running applications and games which integrate with social networks, there are now millions of casual gamers, however.
The rise of casual games represents a major shift in the video game market.
Casual games have been able to capture the attention of many people who had previously dismissed video games as childish or a waste of time. Demographics which don’t fit the old stereotypes of gamers are embracing casual games. Because more and more people are becoming gamers, there is a larger market for causal video game publishers.
Most casual games are characterized by an ease in learning how to play the game, a small time commitment and a very low or non-existent price. The most popular platforms for casual games are currently mobile phones such as the iPhone or Android-powered smartphones, personal media players such as the iPod Touch and social networks like Facebook. Some of the most prominent casual games of the past years include Angry Birds, FarmVille and Bejeweled.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is pleased with the massive uptick of casual gaming. Many traditional video game publishers are feeling the heat from free or inexpensive games available on mobile devices. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has expressed his fear and negative feelings towards casual games.
“In the oceanic smartphone games market, the chance to be visible — and the opportunity to make a living — is remarkably low,” he told the software-focused website Tom’s Guide. Obviously Nintendo has a vested interest in the status quo of the current video game market, and wishes that the era of “$50 games,” which can take years and millions of dollars to produce, were not coming to an end.
While Nintendo is dragging its heels, some well-established game publishers are embracing the surge of casual games. Ubisoft, one of the largest game publishers in the world, has been very successful in the casual game market during recent years. In a recent interview with Gamesindustry.biz, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said, “In the long term there’s no reason why the casual [game business] would not overcome the hard core business because there are more people that are interested in buying casual [games].” Recent assessments by video game news website Strategy Informer estimate that Ubisoft makes 40 percent of its revenue from casual games.
The rise of casual games has allowed many people to self-publish their own games, a feat which only very few used to have the means to accomplish. Aspiring video game developers no longer need to apply to traditional, well-established games studios, but can develop, publish and market their own games independently. Having a game which makes it on to the bestsellers list in either Apple’s App Store or Google’s Android marketplace will surely garner the game hundreds of thousands of downloads.
Casual gaming will undoubtedly continue to grow. One day soon it may match, or even eclipse the traditional, more “hard core” video game market in terms of both profits and user base. Nintendo and other well-known video game publishers will do all they can to downplay casual games, but any trend which creates more gamers can only be good for the industry.