Casuality Seattle 2006 may be over, but its not forgotten, at least by yours truly. Here are my thoughts & insights from the show, and what it means for you, the casual game player.
- In China, 2006 is the Year of the Dog. In Casual Games, I hereby declare 2006 the Year of the Publisher. Everyone wants to be a publisher, including Real Arcade, Big Fish Games, Yahoo! Games, PopCap, iWin, PlayFirst, Encore, and Oberon to name a few. It actually makes sense. The difference between a good and great casual game is the last 10% of work. Publishers help developers with that final 10%. In the words of Spinal Tap, they help take it to "11." This is not to say that developers can not create great games on their own out of their garage. They can, they do, and they will continue to do so. It’s just that publishers make it a little easier to create great games for you to play. All hail the Year of the Publisher.
- 2006 is NOT the year of multiplayer casual games and micro-transactions. At every casual game conference, there is always someone who declares that game downloads and the try-and-buy model are dead and out of their ashes shall arise multiplayer games where you can dress up your avatar with pretty little dresses for the cost of pennies. And every year, nothing ever happens. It turns out that building multiplayer platforms is not as easy as it sounds. Also, people like to download and play game by themselves. For this reason, there was a lot more buzz about advertising than multiplayer at Casuality this year which is considerably easier to make happen. Both Real Arcade and Microsoft plan to offer ads in games, providing you with longer trial periods and free game play.
- This is not to say that multiplayer casual games will never happen. Multiplayer is huge in Asia and Asian companies will be expanding to the US and Europe. Wild Tangent will have its Wild Coins micro-transactions system released by end of the year. Both Club Pogo and Xbox Live Arcade are extremely popular and offer awesome community features. Finally, many developers and publishers are getting tired of waiting for the big boys to release multiplayer platforms and are about to release multiplayer games of their own. Maybe it’s because the hype around multiplayer is finally ebbing (or all the soy lattes I downed last week), but I do hereby make a bold prediction: 2007 shall be the Year of Multiplayer in Casual Games. Mark my words, by this time next year, you will be playing multiplayer casual games. . . and dressing up your avatar with that designer jacket you wish you could afford in real life.
- Speaking of bold predictions, John Vechey, a co-founder of PopCap Games, declared that within the next 18 months, at least 3 casual game companies will be acquired and at least one will go public. Here’s crossing our fingers that one of those companies is Gamezebo!
- Even if Gamezebo does not go public, we can give ourselves a pat on the back based on the results from Trymedia’s latest study released at Casuality. According to the study, game reviews are the 4th most popular way that players find out about casual games, after big game web sites, search engines, and newsletters (nice!). This study also showed that on average, you play casual games on average 9 times per month for 2 hours per session!
- And finally. . . Seattle is no Amsterdam (the last venue for Casuality earlier in the year). No offense to our friends in the Pacific Northwest, but what happens in Seattle, stays in Seattle, because nothing happens. Our suggestion: change the venue next year from Seattle to Vegas, Baby! Joking aside, Seattle was a gracious host city and cooperated with beautiful weather. It did not rain one day. Though, if I hear one more Seattle native complain about how 80 degrees F with 0% humidity is too hot to handle (poor souls), I will send them on a one-way ticket to the East Coast of the US where I grew up.
OK, no more talk about Casuality. Time to get back and review and preview more games.