Op/Ed: Mobile Gaming & the Casual Gaming Opportunity
I-Play CEO David Gosen explains why casual games aren't a genre, but a design philosophy...
Casual gaming both online and on mobile have come of age. Almost one and a half billion gamers worldwide are either logging onto their PCs and mobiles to fill their lunch hours, simply to escape work or have the fun on the go, a figure that's set to grow to over three billion by 2011. Anyone in mobile gaming knows the undisputed king of genres is casual, led by puzzle games such as Tetris, bejeweled and Jewel Quest, which are the very embodiment of casual games.
However, it doesn't then follow that the only games that are successful on mobile or PC are puzzle games. Casual gaming is about more than a puzzle game or genre of games. It's about the philosophy behind game development. Game development, particularly on mobile, but across all gaming platforms should be about engagement, gratification, playability and above all fun. Game development for mobile is of course a completely different ball game than that for console, and whilst some videogamers may sneer at what's achievable on mobile, console could actually learn a thing or two from mobile.
Whereas console is in danger of designing games simply to show off the glitz and glamour of the latest technology, mobile gaming is gaming in its purest form. The traditional videogames business should sometimes ask itself - Where did the game go? because it got lost somewhere after the developers got too close to see how realistic they could make the particle explosions or the wrinkles on the main protagonists face. Mobile doesn't have this luxury. A bad mobile game won't get hidden by the beauty or realism of its wrapper.
The constraints of the device means mobile naturally lends itself to more of a casual gameplay experience. The constraints aren't just visual, but also on the game-playability. Who wants to have to power away at three different keys on the keypad, whilst simultaneously trying to steer? This is where simple, intuitive and casual playability comes in.
The consumer's usage behaviour on the device is also dramatically different. Mobile gaming is gaming on the go. People play as part of another experience: whilst catching a train, sitting on a conference call, or waiting in a queue. Mobile games developers really have the toughest job in the market, since mobile gamers are looking for immediate gratification, so developers have to win over their audience in the first two minutes of gameplay. They've got to offer simple - preferably 'one thumb' gameplay, but in a game that also provides an ongoing challenge. 75% play mobile games for less than 10 minutes, so developers have just a short space of time to convince the mobile gamer that it's good enough to want to come back for more: - the ultimate dip in dip out experience. And developers often manage to achieve all of this within the technology constraints of the mobile device.
Taking racing as a genre, some might think of gritty racing games as 'hard core' but in reality these can be as 'casual' as puzzle games. As the judging panel at the last 3GSM said, before awarding Fast & Furious: Tokyo the 'Best Made for Mobile Game' "This stood out for its universal attraction, intuitive design and sheer 'playability'." Adopting the causal game development philosophy on mobile is the key to growing its audience to the true mass market. And embracing the broader definition of casual and delivering it in a playable, bite-sized mobile package is one of the toughest challenges in the gaming industry. But if it was easy, it wouldn't be any fun, would it?
[I]David Gosen is CEO of mobile game developer I-Play. He joined the company in 2004 as COO. Prior to joining I-Play, he served as anaging Director of sales and marketing at Nintendo of Europe.
Do you work in the mobile games industry? Would you like to be featured in a Modojo Biz Op/Ed? Let us know.[/I]