Okay, okay ... so maybe that was an overly dramatic reenactment of my epiphany, but it illustrates my point. Here I am, a (somewhat) well-respected entertainment journalist who spends a lot of his work and free time with marquee video games like Assassin's Creed and Dead Space, as well as off-the-wall games like Gods Eater Burst and 3D Dot Game Heroes ... and I'm playing these casual games? Does that mean I'm losing my "street cred" in the video game industry? I mean, sheesh, how can I look myself in the mirror and call myself a "real gamer" when I'm giddily enjoying launching birds, tormenting pygmies, and yes even twirling around multi-colored jewels? Actually, the answer is simpler than you might think.
Obviously there's a major market for casual gaming. If there wasn't, you wouldn't see things like Conan O'Brian playing a life-sized version of Angry Birds or Tetris-based furniture. But why is the market there? What is it about these games that makes them so damed popular? There are a few reasons:
- There's a wide variety of games to choose from
- Take a look at any of your favorite casual game marketplaces (Android Market, iTunes, Facebook, Pogo, etc.) and you'll find something for just about anybody. Feel like exercising your brain a bit? Check out Wordfeud or MonkWerks. Want to micromanage some minions? Try Dungeon Overlord or Plants vs. Zombies. The list goes on. The point being that if you're looking for something, the odds are good you'll find something in the casual field suited to your tastes.
- Some people might get their panties in a wad over me using the term "cheap", so I'll say that most casual games are "more affordable" than their hardcore counterparts. Apps will usually run a buck or two (or sometimes even free thanks to in-game advertising), and even the bigger PC games rarely run over the $20 mark ... still a steal when compared to the $50-60 price tag attached to most mainstream games. And since the casual games tend to be simpler in format, their development costs are usually just a fraction of what the bigger releases have to content with. What this means is that even at a minuscule price point, the developers can still turn a profit. Case in point: Earlier this week, Angry Birds developer Rovio announced that the hit game originally cost just $140k to create ... but has raked in more than $70 million. That's a return on investment of 500 PERCENT!!
- Be honest ... whether you're saving the galaxy from an epic alien invasion or just playing a quick round of Solitaire, isn't the goal the same? You're playing to just take a break from the reality of the world around you. A game is a game ... be it hardcore or casual. They're meant to entertain you. Sometimes you might want to spend hours upon hours battling the Horde (or Alliance, I'm not taking sides here, WoW fans) in massive battlegrounds. But sometimes, you might just need a quick five or ten minute gaming fix. Either way, you get to enjoy yourself.