Game developers are technologists. When we produce a game, we think first of the platform the game should run on, as we feel it’s the most important aspect when designing a game.
I’m going to argue the contrary: for any casual game to be successful today, it needs to be designed to work on multiple platforms.
When you tell any casual gamer that the game their friends are talking about can be played on their office PC, but not on their iPad, they’ll just simply ask “why?” If they can watch streaming movies on their TVs, computers, and even iPads, why can’t they play Angry Birds online on their work PC’s?
We organize our industry by platforms. Here we have the console developer, the mobile developer, the social developer, the PC downloadable game developer, etc. Even the conferences we go to are organized that way. We focus too much time talking about what platform the game should be running on (its technical issues and its business models), but don’t invest enough effort talking about the people who play our games.
Up until a few years ago, this made perfect sense. Making a game for the PC used to require a different development framework than for a phone. And phones had different resolutions than PCs. But, it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant what platform your game is developed for in terms of time and costs.
Many of today’s smartphones have a higher resolution than the PC version of Plant vs Zombies (800×600). Even development frameworks such as Unity are making it easier to create a cross platform game.
Free2Play and Try-and-Buy (which, in fact, is a one time transaction, hence a variation of Free2Play) are taking over the entire industry across all platforms. This business model stability will allow content creators to focus on the content, rather than having to re-learn how to effectively monetize their game.
As a result of the standardization of platforms and business models, game developers can spend more time thinking about designing games around the people who play our games and how their tastes may differ from each other. Girls play games differently than boys, and adults play differently than their children. We can advance industry that appealing to the different groups that play games and creating games that all canenjoy together, no matter the platform or device.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the time we are developing products which are trying to cater everyone. We spend so much time on technical and business issues that we leave little to make better content. But if movies and television have always tried to create content that appealed to everyone a lot of multi-billion dollar franchises would have never existed. The Godfather would have suppressed the shootings for love and treachery ala Days of our Lives, and would have toned down the language so the kids can watch it too. Oh, and its content would have had to work if broadcasted entirely or in episodes (making sure in every episode there should be a huge cliffhanger so people will come back next time).
Focus on people, not platforms. That should be the next wave of casual games.
Juan heads the production at Joju Games. Joju produces online, social and multiplayer games for clients such as Atari, Mochi Media, Shockwave, and MTV Networks. Juan has more than 12 years of experience developing online games. Previously, and as one of the first members of the Yahoo! Games team, Juan was the lead producer for the downloadable games area and community manager of multi player games. In the last year of his tenure at Yahoo!, Juan was the head of Yahoo! Games Studios. Juan is a frequent speaker at industry events, and holds a BFA in Electronic Media from the University of Illinois.