Under the Radar

Some of the juiciest stories in casual games are the very ones that are remain under the radar. . . until now.

Join me, my fellow Gamezebos, as we expose the biggest stories in casual games that are not being reported on.

Whither Yahoo! Games?

Not a week goes by that I am not asked what is going on at Yahoo! Games. The reason I am asked this question is that before I started Gamezebo, I was head of business development at Yahoo! Games for four fun-filled years. The reason I am the wrong person to ask is that I left over a year and half ago so how should I know?

Still, based on the hundreds of conversations, public statements by Yahoo! at game conferences, and my own keen observational skills, I do know the following:

  • Yahoo! is moving away from offering casual game downloads and focusing on offering more video game content (just check out the amount of real estate to video games on their newly designed web site compared to casual games)
  • Yahoo! is still offering casual game downloads but they are most interested in game downloads that appeal to a younger male demographic
  • Yahoo! is creating mini-sites around brands, such as its Wii Web site.

Is this a good idea? Frankly, I don’t know. What I do know is that the impact on the business of casual games is huge. Yahoo! is a top 5 distributor of casual games with millions of gamers generating millions of downloads a month. Imagine if Circuit City stopped selling TV’s or if Best Buy stopped selling video games at retail. The question is will these millions of casual game players just disappear overnight or will they migrate to competitive sites?

The fact is that Yahoo! appears to be folding its hand on the casual games market at the same time that competitors such as RealArcade, Big Fish Games, Oberon Games, Shockwave (MTV), etc are doubling down their investment. Whether Yahoo’s bold gambit works or not, it represents a huge opportunity for its competitors.

Big Fish PNP – The AdSense for Casual Games?

When Big Fish Games launched its affiliate program last year it was met with both interest and skepticism.

Interest because Big Fish was letting you earn a revenue share on both your own sales and the sales of anyone who signs up through you. Skepticism because it initially sounded like a pyramid scheme (it’s not, by the way, just very clever marketing).

Having tested out the program myself, I have to say that so far I’m impressed. Big Fish’s program (My Big Fish Space for consumers, PNP for webmasters) reminds me of Google’s AdSense in that both programs are targeted at the same market — small guys. And, both programs are highly automated and unbelievably simple to sign up for and implement.

The biggest surprise to me is that in a casual game world where every successful game is cloned, no one has yet tried to clone this affiliate program. Big Fish is very public about their numbers (anyone who signs up can see the Top 10 List of Earners) and it’d be easy for anyone to estimate exactly how much Big Fish is generating.

What’s the difference between these two games?

In the case of Mysteryville and Magic Academy, not much.

When I wrote my editorial Crazy Competition in Casual Games last year, I predicted that more competition among distributors would lead to more innovative games.

What I did not predict is that it would also lead to extreme cloning.

First, Nevosoft distributes Mysteryville exclusively through RealArcade. A month later, they release the exact same game with a new story everywhere else. What’s surreal is that both games are selling very well, even though they are essentially the exact same game (though, per our reviews, Magic Academy is a tad better).

Nevosoft is either the most clever casual game developer in the world or too clever for their own good. In the short term, they are maximizing the amount of money they can make per game. Long term, who will sign an exclusive contract if they suspect the developer will just re-release the same game again with a few new lines of code?

Know a story that is "under the radar" and needs to be exposed to the world? Email us at [email protected] or write below in the comments.

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