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


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