Kill Death Justice, a New Match 3

31 08 2008

Does “Kill Death Justice” sound like a crazy name and theme for a casual game genre and market like match 3 that targets mostly women 30’s and older? If so, you haven’t seen the latest game doing as high as #1 in its category. It’s called “Righteous Kill” based on the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino gritty crime thriller.

Check out the video and media page on Big Fish Games, and keep an eye on how it does in the charts. Meanwhile contemplate a market – casual games – that is broad enough to make relative best-sellers out of topics as broad as Civil War history and gritty murder dramas.

It’s not all cartoon resteraunt characters and match 3’s.

Josh





Casual Games, Broad Topics

1 05 2008

Last week Big Fish Games released Hidden Mysteries – The Civil War. It is the first hidden picture game that uses a historic war for its theme. It has been at the #1 place on the site overall and #1 in its category. Doubtless it is selling bucket-loads at the number one spot. This game is an innovation in theme to welcome and applaud.

Previously hidden object games were primarily detective and adventure games that appeal to adults of a wide variety. However it’s clear that Civil War‘s target demographic is outside the casual game stereotype of 30-50 year old females. The success of this game shows there is a baby boomer and older market across genders that is interested in doing more than just playing whodunnit.

It’s true that some young adults (21-35) could be drawn to the content in Hidden Mysteries – The Civil War from their exposure to the topic in harder-core genres (like this Civil War shooter on the XBox 360 or similar Civil War strategy games). But clearly milddle aged consumers (35 – 50) and especially golden gamers (50+) are the target demographic, and for good reason. Middle aged players spend the most time playing casual games of any age group. They are also the most likely to purchase. Similarly, golden gamers have the most time available to play games, and are the most used to having to pay for things (as opposed to teens and young adults spoiled by expectations of free things online, forcing monetizations like microtransactions for those markets). This makes both ripe markets to target. Incidentally middle and golden aged gamers are the gamers that would least identify themselves as gamers, yet look at these numbers (the #1 game on BigFish!) — they purchase these games in droves.

A similar game to Civil War is Hidden Expedition: Titanic which is still on the top 100 after more than 2 years (now at #41 with a peak at #1). Though the success of this game can’t help but take off from the noteriety of the film, it is another historical interest game played straight that would be of special interest to those older casual gamers. The success of Civil War is not a fluke.

The lesson of Civil War‘s success is this: think about who your target audience is, and make games for them. What interests do these older gamers have? Do some research. Gardening, cooking, and travel are on the list, and many casual games have already been made of these topics, but there are so many more. How about wood carving/burning, home brewing, dog/horse training, building model cars/trucks/ships, bingo, fabric crafts (knitting, crochet, embroidery), guitar (not Guitar Hero, think blues guitar), poetry, metal working, and more. Ask older people what hobbies they enjoy. Check out magazines targeting older people — what are their interests? Any of these topics could be the next hit casual game. If you are not an older person yourself (the game industry is typically young, an Achilees Heel if there ever was one) it is especially important to do this research.

Over 50 million American women knit or crochet – the next hit casual game?

It will not be long before we see not just hidden object games broaden in theme, but all casual games. I look forward to the day where the diversity we see in topics for books, movies, magazines, and TV shows can be found in video games too. It’ll be the casual market that delivers it, not the hardcore market which eschews anything but the same old post apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy subjects.

If you’re out there making casual games, broaden your topics to find new market niches, then bring it on!

Josh





You and Your Blob… errr… Blog

21 04 2008

by Drew “Gaiiden” Sikora
for casualindie.com

Introduction

Running GameDev.net makes it essential I stay in touch with game developers, and one way I do that is by following their blogs.

Here’s four great reasons as a developer why you should blog:

  1. Attract exposure to your game or studio
  2. Build community and fanbase around your blog
  3. Help your morale as an indie developer
  4. Use your blog as a muse and sketchbook for new ideas

I’ll cover these four benefits in detail. First, note that I’ll only be covering two kinds of blogs: Personal and Company. A third type I call Media blogs are ones like Indie Games Weblog or Kotaku. Although I enjoy these as well, for the most part they are beyond what we’re covering.

Personal blogs in this context refers to a blog belonging to and operated by a single individual (such as the ever loveable creator of Crayon Physics Petri Purho). It does not mean that it is a blog used to detail one’s personal life. Although we all have interesting stories to tell about ourselves, and many are suitable for sharing, that trip to the doctor’s office to get the tube inserted into the… yeah uhm, we all don’t need to know about that one.

Company blogs are when a development company owns the blog (like Cryptic Sea) and various team members post to it. No, a Personal blog owned by the sole proprietor of a company (like Petri’s Kloonigames) is not considered a Company blog, as that company is their personal property and not its own entity.

Blog Goodness #1: Exposure

The most obvious benefit to having a blog is exposure. Don’t worry, I’m referring to the decent kind here. How do you get people to read your blog? First, provide blog readers with constant updates of acceptable quality. If you have no content or the content is worthless, you will not draw readership. Now, simply tell your friends. Pass around links to entries you make and solicit feedback. Don’t be afraid to poke and prod to get people to check it out – they’re your friends after all. Once you have your inner circle covered, start expanding your reach and talking to other people who have similar blogs, they’ll most likely list you in their blog roll if they like what you’re doing. Meanwhile, your friends are telling their friends, who are telling their friends – you get the idea. Eventually you could see yourself up on places like Andy Schatz’s website Qatfish, which aggregates high-quality blogs from all over the net.

Blogs do not advertise themselves – people must first know you exist.

Blog Goodness #2: Community

Here’s the next great thing about blogs: the ability to reach out and connect with your audience. People who play your games will feel more attached to the product if they know the developers behind the title.This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all your buddies, but it does create a user base that will stick around from project to project (so long as you stick around). As I mentioned, you’re not looking to share personal stories with your readers, unless those stories pass along some moral or intellectual benefit and wouldn’t make the average person uncomfortable to read (ahem). Instead, you mainly want to be as open and honest as possible about your company and your product(s). Help build a sense of responsiveness by making sure to respond directly to comments people leave.

People stick with others they can trust. If you’re always honest and open, they’ll have no reason to leave.

Blog Goodness #3: Morale

Blogs can do wonders for your productivity. How could you disappoint your huge blog audience by failing to complete a project? On the same note, how can you ignore all those many pleas for certain game features? How can you deny yourself the glory of releasing your title to many hyped-up individuals? By the time you’ve accrued a decent following on your blog, you’ve essentially created a cheerleading squad for yourself. Use it. You’ll be amazed at the motivation you’ll get from people genuinely interested in playing your game. Had a bad day? Post about it! You’ll most likely get plenty of comments from your readers to help pick up your spirits and carry on. For that last 10% that catches so many developers, having a load of people poking and prodding you along could well be what you need to push through to completion.

It’s not a one-way street. You have to give people something to be excited about! Post lots of cool images and videos and invite random readers to play test at various stages of development.

Blog Goodness #4: Muse

In the same vein as motivation comes inspiration, and not just from your readers, but from yourself as well. Use your blog as a place to creatively dish your thoughts out. Forcing yourself to place your thoughts in order so you can write about them has a way of making them clearer to you. Besides random musings, throwing up simple stuff like sketches and a screenshot of something funny and unexpected (be it a bug or some sort of emergent play) can also generate a lot of feedback from your readers that may lead you to think about things in a new light. Dreams are also great things to get down in your blog, because they don’t commonly last long in your memory.

In Conclusion

Despite all these benefits, blogs only matter if they have a purpose. Do not create a Personal blog for yourself and over time start posting more entries about your personal life (helpful though they may be) than about your project. Do not create a Company blog with half your staff posting about the game and the other half posting about whatever the hell they feel like or nothing at all.

People will come and read your blog for a reason, and although many will probably not admit it that reason is for their own self interest. You’re not blogging about you for you; if there’s nothing in your blog that people can take away and apply to themselves or leave feedback on to feel they are contributing, they will not read it.

Make sure at the very start that you know what you’re blogging about, and stay true to that purpose. Make sure everyone active on the blog also shares and understands the purpose of the blog. Finally, make sure your readers understand the purpose of your blog.

Have fun blogging, everyone! I’m off now to tell all my buddies about this cool new blog CasualIndie.com… in the meantime, kudos to all you old farts who got the title reference. See you around.

Drew “Gaiiden” Sikora is the executive producer of the indie/game development site GameDev.net and is an avid blogger and blog reader.





The Casual/Indie Connection

16 04 2008

Casual games are games for everyone. Indie games are games made by anyone. Welcome to the Casual Indie blog, the intersection of games for everyone made by anyone.

Why Indie?

Many indies arrive from outside the game industry, while others quit their jobs at large game studios to go indie. Either way, indie development offers developers the freedom to try new things.

In addition, indie games are typically smaller in scope than AAA games. They are cheaper to produce, need less people on the team, and are faster to make. All these make them appealing for developers who’ve had enough of out of control game budgets, being an anonymous face on a huge team, and spending multiple years to have a project close.

Additionally, with smaller teams and tighter roles, developers have a closer relationship to their work, their co-developers, and ultimately their customers, bringing more meaning and job satisfaction to their craft.

Why Casual?

Some start out in the casual game industry, while many more (especially programmers) are transplants from other parts of the game industry (notably AAA development). They are attracted to many of the same things that attract indie developers – smaller scoped projects, smaller team sizes, faster development times. Many weary AAA developers, tired of games that focus on 3D shaders and licensed content, are refreshed to enter the casual game industry where the focus is on finding the fun.

Why Casual Indie?

Unique content is crucial for the long term success of the casual game industry.

“It is doubtful that anyone will succeed in the long term with undifferentiated content in a saturated market.”

– Casual Games Market Report 2007

As it happens, unique content is exactly what indies do best:

“Independent games take risks and push the game play boundaries that licensed, franchised & sequel games rarely do.”

– Thomas Arundel (Darwinia)

The smaller budgets and faster development timelines of casual/indie games mean that developers don’t need to be as risk-adverse as their huge-budget (and therefore huge potential losses) AAA cousins, because there is less time/money/manhours to lose.

Take a look at this comparison of Casual Games, Indie Games, and AAA/Hardcore Games in key areas:

Casual Games Indie Games AAA/Hardcore Games
cost $10k – $250k $0 – $100k multi-million
team size 3 – 12 people 1 – 12 people multi-studio teams
dev time 6 months – year 1 month – 1 year multiple years
audience everyone everyone 18-25 year old males
players 150 million (U.S.) unknown 2 million (U.S.)
platforms PC, Mac, Web, mobile, XBLA, DS, Wii PC, Mac, Linux, Web, XBLA PC, Mac, XB360, PS3, Wii, Arcades
game price free to $20 free to $20 $40-$60
avg filesize 1mb – 30mb 1mb – 100mb 1gb or more
distribution online downloadable (trial to buy), subscriptions, ad-supported online downloadable (trial to buy) box products through traditional retail
sales casual game portals self-published on own website and indie aggregators box products through traditional retail
music analogy light rock indie alt rock heavy metal
goal make it fun make it innovative make it pump adreneline

Here we see the similarities between casual and indie games in stark contrast to AAA mainstream and hardcore games. Developers are attracted to independent development and casual game development for many of the same reasons. Some developers see casual/indie game development as a stepping stone into heavier AAA development. Most in the casual and indie game spaces are there to stay (and grow).

Conclusion

The casual/indie connection is a natural one and already strong. A huge number of indie developers are making casual games, and arguably most casual game developers are independent. Let’s bridge the gap and take the best from both of those worlds to make innovative, accessible, fun games for everyone.

Josh





Introductions

15 04 2008

Welcome to CasualIndie.com, a blog about the casual game side of indie games and development.

My name is Joshua Dallman and I am the blog’s editor and chief author. I am myself an independent developer; as Red Thumb Games, developing casual and indie games, and as a game producer at GarageGames. I am an indie game development advocate and longtime blogger, and now a casual game industry advocate as well.

This blog will feature regular guest authors writing short pieces about newsworthy subjects or practical tips. You’ll read articles straight from the indie developers out there who are making games and getting them published.

Developers, aspiring developers, publishers, distributors, and even players of casual and independent games will find posts here of interest. Topics may include development, technical articles, art tips, design strategy, prototyping, business/industry, marketing, current topics (social networks, microtransactions, in-game advertising), opinion pieces, and reaction to news events.

If you’re an indie considering making casual games, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re a casual game developer who’s independent, let’s share and learn from each other.

My email is listed on the about page. If you’re interested in writing a piece or just want to get in touch, please drop me a line. Thanks for reading, and welcome!

Joshua Dallman








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