Casual Games Biz Article

A pretty lengthy, and solid, article on the casual games biz, here.

Some interesting excerpts:

The sequel to one of PopCap’s popular word puzzles, “Bookworm Adventures,” is expected to be the most expensive title produced for the casual game genre. PopCap, which has offices in San Francisco, Seattle and Ireland, spent $700,000 over 2 1/2 years developing the game. It’s set to debut online Tuesday at $30 per download.

$700K is a lot to develop a casual game. I’m anxious to take a look at this one when it comes out. (I don’t see it on PopCap’s site yet – sometimes they do limited releases a week or so before doing a general release to the public…)

Research group DFC Intelligence estimates that revenues from casual games worldwide will grow to $953 million this year, from $713 million last year. They were $228 million in 2002. Those numbers don’t include casual games played on handheld devices.

That’s pretty significant – a quadrupling in revenue in 4 years. Also, the last time I saw, traditional (non-casual, non-subscription) PC games were at about $800-900 million annually, in the US. You can probably assume the world-wide totals for traditional PC games are about twice that (probably a bit under $2 billion). Taking the analyst’s estimate and my guesswork at face value, casual games are now about half as big as traditional PC games, and growing much faster.

Of course, console gaming dwarfs both of the above sectors…

5 Responses to “Casual Games Biz Article”

  1. Steve Says:

    Well, as of this afternoon, Bookworm Adventures is out. Does it look like it cost $700K to make? I don’t think the average player will notice, but some of the character animations are very nicely done, albeit in a subtle way. I suppose that’s where a lot of the money went. But to tell the truth, if I hadn’t been told how much it cost and how long it took to make, I wouldn’t have guessed that it was the most expensive casual game ever made. It has its nice points, but some of the graphics looked kind of “soft.” Also, it’s kind of hard to tell how much depth the game has based on what I’ve played so far.

    Overall it’s one of the better-made casual games I’ve seen, but if not for the hype of its cost and development time, I don’t think I’d be paying much attention to it. I don’t mean that in a bad way… while this game is nice, a game like Zuma had me playing for hours when I first got it. This one doesn’t have that same fun factor, at least for me. YMMV. ;)

  2. StGabe Says:

    I also thought it didn’t look like it was worth $700k. It is a polished up Dungeon Scrolls. It IS a good solid game but it’s not clear to me where all that money went. I suspect a lot of it was just that they didn’t do their development cycle too efficiently (i.e. worked on it for a while and comitted to art or somesuch before completely redesigning and changing it).

  3. David L. Says:

    I was fun, I used my 60 minutes up immediately. But I think the price is a little high.

  4. Paulo Garcia Says:

    About the cost of the project, I just read from PopCap´s developer forum that this value (700k) is all a translation of the 2.5 years of work into a dollar cost.

    Maybe it´s nice to say how much money you spent in a project to show the commitment to the “causual” audience.

    The $30 price appears to be a “launch price” to increase the initial revenues. There are always people that will pay to get as soon as possible the new game. Maybe after some time the price will be dropped to $19.

  5. Eric Heimburg Says:

    One of PopCap’s engineers mentioned on their developer forums that the $700k figure comes almost entirely from salaries. They developed the game for 2.5 years, including a year of “floundering around with the design”, was his phrase, I believe. This included artist salaries; only some sound effects were purchased from outside of PopCap.

    Given that it’s salaries for a lengthy development cycle, $700k is not really that outlandish. It still remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to recoup that, but I’m guessing so. Reviews have been very favorable, and I’ve actually bought a copy.

    On a side note, I think they have a bit of a presentation problem because their game actually gets a good bit more interesting and fun in the later levels, when more mechanics are introduced. By that time, though, the 1 hour time limit has elapsed… I initially decided the game was too easy, until I heard from friends that it got much more difficult and strategic later on. If I hadn’t had word of mouth, I wouldn’t have purchased the game.

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