The Brodie Blog: Casual Games & Movies

Usually when I write an article for Gamezebo, I write out a draft, pontificate, revise, ponder, re-write, and post, a month later.  Half my editorials end up forever hidden on my laptop, never to see the light of day.

No more!  I’m a blogger, a twitterer, a man of action. Welcome to The Brodie Blog, where I’ll tell you my thoughts on casual games, as they magically occur!

Today’s Entry:  How Movies can be a good sign of things to come in casual games.

I was reading an article in the New York Times about the movies industry which made me naturally think of the parallels to casual games.

According to the New York Times, the movies industry is having a blockbuster year so far despite (or as a result of) the recession, with ticket sales up 17.5% higher, to $1.7 billion, so far this year.  At least one industry will not be asking for a bailout!

There are two reasons suggested for this growing popularity of movies: 

One, ironically, is the recession.  During times of trouble, people want to escape.  We saw this during the Great Depression in the 1930’s (the Golden Age of Hollywood) and we’re seeing it again now.  Tickets may be $13 apiece, but it’s still cheaper than a trip to Disney Land.

Two, Hollywood is better tailoring their movies to the demands of its audience.  Instead of offering serious fare as last year, movies so far this year are less high-brow and more audience friendly.  Such classic films such as Jonas Brothers: The 3D Experience, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail may not win any Oscars at the end of the year, but they sure are packing the theatres in!

What on earth does this mean for casual games?

First of all, the theory discussed at my panel at Casual Connect: Hamburg about the recession, that more people will play casual games to escape, could hold true.  If someone is willing to spend $13 for a movie, why not $10 or less for a casual game?  And yes, I said, $10 or less. 99.9% of all game players online are purchasing games at discount with Game Clubs or at sites like  Sorry, game developers, the genie is out of the bottle and its not going back in.  

People are going to play more casual games over the next couple of years because it’s a cheap way to escape. How game developers and publishers will generate enough money to earn a return of investment with distributors fighting each other and prices falling to zero, is another story.

Second, casual game companies need to follow the example of the movie industry and really focus on creating games that people want to play.  There is a huge discussion among game developers about whether casual games are killing the video games industry and whether hidden object games are killing casual games.  With so many hidden object games, quality suffers, and we risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg.  

But, in the end of the day, developers need to focus on giving the people what they want.  If people want more hidden object games, by all means, give us more hidden object games.  Same with time management games, life simulations, strategy games, and the like.

Having run Gamezebo for the past two years, I have learned that what players really want are good, fun, and addictive games that offer more than few hours of game play.

Innovation is great, but what is just as important, is value.  Is this game worth my hard-earned money?  Does the game offer more than five hours of gameplay?  Have the text been proofread?  Is it bug-free?  Has the game developer created the game because it’s a game that appeals to them or it’s a game that I, the casual gamer, want to play?  And, at a cost I can afford?

Movie studios get it.  Moviegoers want more Jason from Friday the 13th, Jonas Brothers, and Madea to escape from the realities of life. 

Question is, do casual game companies?  Whether developers can think and create games in the same way that Hollywood creates movies may determine whether they survive or thrive in this year’s global recession.

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