Ask a Shark - a Clairvoyance Session
What's been going on lately in the industry of casual games? This question worries not only industry people, but ordinary mortals looking for peaceful and funny games on the net and in the retail stores. What is going to happen this year on the market? Will there be anything innovative? Or is the market stagnating?
Well, as far as the future is concerned, there are a lot of beliefs, rumors and speculations. Here are the most significant of them:
- Casual games is one of the fastest growing businesses that continues to grow nowadays;
- Casual games business is now stagnating;
- As a medium to generate more money from the games sold online, advertising will be used. That means the games will be stuffed with ads;
- Games will soon disappear from retail stores and will gradually move to the online multiplayer market.
Having gathered it all on one page, I got a strong desire to separate the wheat from the chaff. For that sake, we interviewed several "sharks" of the casual games industry (in fact "whales" is a better word given the peaceful face of the whole market) during the greatest developer get-together at the conference held in Amsterdam, Netherlands this February. Special thanks to people from Absolutist and CGA for providing selflessly what they've filmed at the conference.
Casual games is one of the fastest growing businesses that continues to grow nowadays...
Rob Fraser - CEO & Chairman - Real Networks
I think casual games are growing in many ways, I think they're growing in terms of the platform, in terms of the world wide reach. We have been presuming that's an advertising business and consumer purchase kind of business and it's also growing in a way connected with community. So, man, there are a lot of different ways, it's growing and it's very-very exciting.
What is your prognosis for the next couple of years? Will the business be growing?
The best thing about the casual games business is that it's very progressive industry. So, there are a lot of new things to do, we don't spend a lot of time trying to negotiate deals, argue with people. We only think: let's try and see if it works. And if it works, everyone jumps in, and goes for it. We saw that with advertising, we're seeing that with distribution, with other platforms. That's a great attitude where everybody is willing to innovate, experiment and try things out. And this is how the industry's gone as far so fast.
Casual games business is now stagnating
To learn more about this point of view, read Joel Brodie's article at Gamezebo.
As a medium to generate more money from the games sold online, advertising will be used. That means the games will be stuffed with ads...
Chris Early -Studio Manager - Microsoft Casual Games Group
I think there're a lot of opportunities for the developers. What we hope to do is to do such a way from the developer's side and the player's side that is not very obtrusive, so it's does not get in the way of the game play, do it in the natural break in the game play. But doing that is going to let the developer look at different ways of monetizing their game, different ways of making money.
So, instead of just having to rely only on selling the download at some point, now by putting ads in different types of the games, they can get money from the trial version, they can make money from the trial period of the download. They can even take the whole download, what used to be the complete download and put it as a completely free web-version of the game and they can actually make even more money.
When you think about the conversion rates that games go through, hundred people download the game and only one buys it. So, what we see from the MSN games side is to get it a hundred downloads, there was probably two hundred or more people who looked at the game page who thought about downloading. They might have even clicked on it, but they have never finished the download.
So, when you take and you say, there was one hundred people who were interested in playing the game. And if it would just be up on the web, maybe they would have played it and maybe the developer would start to see some advertising revenue from what was inside the game versus these two people who actually bought the game.
Which genres do you consider the most popular?
Which genres... I would say that it's less about the genre, but more about the popularity of the game. So, we're coming back to what games are the most popular. So, if you think about a puzzle game or a word game, it has breaks and is easy to put advertising in. But if you think of a real action-oriented game, there is less opportunity for advertising. So, you might actually get a little bit less if you have action going all the time in your game. But from a popularity standpoint last year on the MSN games site Bejeweled was the most popular game. So as a result of the advertising put in that game that I am sure brought the most revenue overall. The popular genres vary a little bit by the demographics of the people who come to the site. On our site we have about two thirds of women and about half of them are over 35. So, the games that we see are the most popular, are the word games and puzzle games.
Casual games will move to multiplayer communities
Riccardo Zacconi - CEO - King.com
We organize tournaments where people compete against each other not necessarily at the same time. So, I'll use this wider definition of multiplayer. We offer our games throughout all Europe. So, the most relevant country for us is the one that has the largest number of online players and which happens to be the country with the largest population, which is Germany.
But it is interesting to know that in some countries the online penetration is higher. For example, Scandinavia, that has a very large number of online players compared to the total number of population.
Casual Games are going to disappear from retail stores some day...Is that true?
Paul Jensen - President - Mumbo Jumbo
I would say: ABSOLUTELY. Although I think it would take much longer than people believe. If you look at the PC space today, hard core pc games are actually selling less, but when we look at the casual space, it's actually growing year over year. And that's because users that play this game online - they're going and purchasing this game at retail, and that will continue to grow because it's a generational thing. If you look at 20 year-olds, they are very used to downloading the games and buying them on Xbox. But if you look at the 45-year-old casual gamers, they're much more comfortable with buying a physical good and having this physical good in their hands.
So, whether it's buying games as a gift to the others or the games they want just to have as a physical good because they're used to it and they want that shopping experience. They're going to keep that experience going on for quite some time. It's not going to be 2 years. Maybe 10,15, 20 years, but it will take much longer than people really think.
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