In fact what is a casual game? Well wiki has a detailed answer, but basically it’s a simple game designed to appeal to wide audience. Typically casual games are not big budget and not action-based; they are normally puzzle/card-type games that you can load and play straight away with the mouse. Casual games don’t generally “punish” the player, they are more of a progressive “fun/addictive” experience.
Current examples of casual games include Bejeweled 2 Deluxe, Diner Dash: Flo On The Go, Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst, Luxor: Amun Rising, Mystery Solitaire: Secret Island, and even platform games like Super Granny 3.
Anyway, so who plays them? Well it’s not spotty teenagers who buy Half Life or who download pirated games with BitTorrent – no Siree! In fact you often hear that it’s mainly women over 30 – is this true? Yep, you bet. I was just given a report from Popcap, one of the largest developers and distributors of casual games on the Internet, and it includes details of a recent survey that they did of casual gamers.
Check it out:
- 76% of Players are Female! Yep, so it’s no use making gore filled zombie-fests.
- Average age of 48. Wow, so some younger developers might be making games aimed at someone just like their mum – imagine that!
- 89% Are 30 or Older. So basically only 11% are teenagers and in their 20s.
- 71% are 40 or older and 47% are 50 or older. So nearly half of casual gamers are over 50! You better think about that carefully when designing a casual game.
- 88% of players overall indicated they experienced stress relief from playing casual games. So casual games need to be fun and progressive but not “stressful”.
- 74% of all respondents cited mental exercise as a benefit. Aha, so they can’t be mindless games either. They need to keep the grey cells going.
Popcap claim this was the largest ever survey of casual game players (the survey was done in August 2006). Now, a few things may mean that their statistics are slightly skewed (as with all surveys): a) only a certain type of person takes surveys, perhaps women over 50? b) we don’t know where Popcap did the survey. If it was on their site, perhaps it attracts a certain kind of casual customer that is a bit different from Reflexive customers for example. c) we don’t know how many people took the survey. However, I suspect that the survey is pretty accurate to be honest.
A cool thing about women over 50 is that they probably have a good source of income and some spare time on their hands and aren’t afraid to spend money on games. This is great news for *good* casual game developers. Compare that market to say the market for some kind of Indie First Person Shooter game… Imagine I made a low-budget FPS game (haha); well the teenagers and young men that would maybe buy it mostly spend their money on big budget retail games for PCs and consoles or they pirate games (sad fact but true), and so my FPS game would have to compete with those factors. Therefore it would probably not have much chance. Having said that the casual game market is becoming increasingly competitive with game development budgets rising and many more games entering the marketplace everyday.
I'm an Indie game developer with a couple of titles under my belt. I've been programming for 23 years on a variety of platforms. Currently I'm using BlitzMax, which is great.