If there is one truth in casual games, it is that casual gamers love hidden object games. In 2010, we continued to view and review at least 3 new hidden object games released per week and I predict this trend will continue even more so in 2011. But I also predict you’ll buy and play hidden object games in different ways in 2011.
The reasons for the continual popularity of hidden object games (HOGs) are plenty. HOGs appeal to Baby Boomer gamers and the Baby Boomers are the biggest and fastest growing segment of the US population. Hidden object games represent an evolution of the adventure genre, which has been popular forever (think Myst). And, hidden object games work perfectly with the Game Club digital distribution model, originally made popular by Big Fish Games.
Yet, just because hidden object games and the Game Club model is a match made in heaven does not mean it’s will be only way to sell and play such games in 2011.
As mentioned in my prediction post yesterday, Apple plans to add Mac games to iTunes this week. At first, games will only be sold as standalone products in iTunes. But, in the same way Apple added micro-transaction support for iPhone and iPad apps in iTunes eventually, they will do the same for Mac games sometime in 2011.
And when they do, game developers who create hidden object games will experiment with the freemium model because it’s been so successful everywhere else.
In the freemium games model, games are offered for free but gamers can purchase items in the games to advance or continue. It’s the secret to the success for many Facebook and iPhone games, since more people can try the game (since it’s free) before they buy items in the game. According to InStat, the virtual items market in games was worth $7.3 billion in 2011 and will grow to $14 billion in 2015!
Surely, casual game download companies will experiment with the freemium model sometime in 2011.
I think that by mid-year, game developers will experiment in offering the first few levels for hidden object games for free and then try to sell additional levels for gamers to finish the game. I don’t think this will work, since the alternative to download a free trial of the game and buy it for $7 (if not premium) is a more compelling value proposition than the episodic model.
But, I do think that the freemium model could work for hidden object games if you offer the entire game for free but charged users to purchase hints to move forward in the game and later updated the game with more episodes. By the end of the year, game developers will figure out how to make the freemium model work for download games and especially with HOGs.
The Game Club model will be the pre-dominant way to purchase and play hidden object games for a long, long time.
But, it will not be the only way.
I have often heard industry insiders tell me that people who play hidden object and other download games will never change the way they play and pay for their games because they are generally an older demographic and do not like change. But, I think this analysis is wrong.
Hidden object game players are generally older but they are also among the most flexible Internet users when it comes to finding the best game deals for games. Remember, the casual games downloads market barely existed 10 years ago and now it’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Until Big Fish Games launched their Game Club just 3 years ago, no one was subscribing to play such games, they were buying them on a per unit basis.
So, there you have it. Prediction #2 is that the freemium game model will be the next big thing in the world of hidden object games.