[casual_games] RE: Casual_Games Digest, Vol 17, Issue 5

Hal Barwood hal at finitearts.com
Fri Oct 13 14:15:22 EDT 2006

Great biz thread, with pretty much everything covered.  My thought is, 
we'll see about price elasticity now that Apple is adding pay-to-play 
games to iTunes, definitely an alternative model.  Meanwhile, I can't 
help lamenting what seems to be a shared ambition of many developers to 
morph our sideshow into the mainstream video/computer game biz.  I'm 
hoping casual games remain forever casual -- for the player and also the 
developer.  Be careful what you wish for:  if casual games turn into 
multi-million-$ projects in amazing 3D, mainstream developers & 
publishers will become very heavy-duty competition, I believe.

Audry Taylor wrote:
>> In the casual game space it is very important to understand your
>> customers. We have done extensive profiling and surveys of our
>> customers, plus we go out there and talk to them. In general, our
>> customers are not like the folks on this mailing list. Someone's 30+
>> female b-school friends are not our primary demographic. Doesn't mean
>> they couldn't be, just that they're not.
> So long as they're not buying the games, there's no reason to see them 
> as the primary demographic, right?  There may be a way to get them to 
> part with their money the way your older demo does, but it may require a 
> different model that hasn't been discovered yet.  When I talked about my 
> own impulses as a 30 year-old woman, I tried to emphasize that it's hard 
> to convince me to pay for something I can get for free.  I suspect this 
> is the case with a lot of my peers. ^_^  Your research into 
> demographics, however, is more thorough and precise than my own.
>> Our audience is 76% women, 71% over the age of 40, 2/3 married. Only
>> half have graduated from college, and 2/3 work part or full time. Only
>> 10% are stay-at-home moms (ie, these are not your classic suburban
>> soccer moms). They are hard-core casual game players, for the most part
>> - 77% have been playing casual games for 3+ years, and 57% play games
>> daily, with 52% playing 5 hours a week or more. As has been widely
>> reported, they play games to unwind and relieve stress.  Most gameplay
>> happens at home, not work. Many of our users do not have credit cards.
>> Average household income is lower than you might think.
> I know individuals who fit this demo, so it doesn't surprise me at all.  
> It makes a lot of sense.
>> We see the same low conversion rates that everyone else does on the PC
>> (2% conversion rates are typical, which means 98% are not playing), and
>> like many other players in the space are aggressively exploring
>> advertising as a way to monetize the 99.8% of our players (including web
>> game players) who don't buy our games at the moment. On the other hand,
>> it is also true that free gameplay on the PC is a great way to build a
>> brand, especially if your games are AAA quality, and top brands can be
>> monetized in all sorts of other ways including alternate platforms,
>> retail, etc.
> The demographic most likely to buy at $19.99/60 min. has mostly been 
> monetized, so the next challenge is to draw in those other demos less 
> willing to part with their money, demos that might require a different 
> model.  The challenge is finding the right model for each demo.
>> We are participating in the wild coins project and are excited because
>> we think it's a nice way to pick up some incremental revenue, but we
>> don't think the model is going to completely replace all other schemes.
> It will be interesting to see if that attracts a similar demographic or 
> a different one.
>> About the flood of casual game content currently out there --- yup. I
>> wouldn't want to try to start a new casual game developer today.
> Agreed.  I certainly wouldn't want to start a new development company 
> which would compete directly with existing competition by creating 
> similar games.  It's time to find the niches that are being missed, 
> rather than competing directly with the big boys for the demographic 
> that's already been snatched up.
>> And it's probably going to become worse
>> before it gets better.
> That seems inenvitable.  A good comparison is the real estate market.  
> In CA, there are more houses being put on the market now than there were 
> before the bubble popped.  Everyone's scrambling to sell their house 
> before it's not "worth anything" anymore, but it's too late.  There's a 
> glut on the market and the houses are already worth less than what 
> they're listed for.  Glut follows the masses, and the masses follow the 
> money.
>> On the other hand, I also agree that there are terrific opportunities in
>> this space for innovation and exploration.
> I suspect that most the opportunities are in innovation and exploration, 
> rather than imitation or repetition.  :-)
>> I agree with some other respondants, however, that the big portals will
>> not be willing to adopt a unified pay-for-play token system across all
>> games.
> That would rather be like Wal-Mart and Target becoming best friends.
> Audry Taylor
> Creative Director
> Go! Comi
> http://www.gocomi.com
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