Archive for October, 2005

Casual != Indie

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

In the last couple weeks, two events have shone the spotlight a bit on the recent rise of indie/casual games.

First, there was a nice BusinessWeek article covering the Indie Games Conference, but talking quite a bit about the rise of Casual Games. Second, Greg Kostikyan announced and blogged about his new company Manifesto Games, which sounds like an attempt to build an indie games hub/publisher/portal. 

Both BusinessWeek and Kostikyan are nominally talking about indie games, but they’re also touting the success of Casual games, as when BusinessWeek states:

Casual gamers now make up about 1% of the $20.5 billion game-software market. By 2010, that figure may surge to $2.1 billion, or 5% of sales, says David Cole, an analyst at gaming consultant DFC Intelligence.

In fact, while Casual Games and Indie Games are related, they are NOT the same thing, and the rise of Casual Games doesn’t necessarily mean that Indie Games in general will also rise.

Casual Games are usually defined as small, simple, downloadable games, sold primarily through web portals such as MSN, RealArcade, Pogo, and the like, with a 60-minute free trial period, and a $20 price point.  Examples include Bejewelled, Zuma, Ricochet, and Diner Dash.

Indie Games are generally defined as games made by very small development teams (1-3 people), not sold through traditional channels, and targeting niche/forgotten markets (wargames, Ultima-style RPGs, updates of classic arcade games, etc.)  Examples include Spiderweb Software and Matrix Games.

Some Indie shops target the Casual market, and a decent percentage of the Casual hits are made by small Indies.  But it’s stretching things a bit to consider the biggest and most successful Casual game makers (PopCap, GameHouse, Reflexive, MumboJumbo) to be indies – they’re all established companies with 20+ employees, decent bankrolls and decent payrolls.  And as the Casual market grows, inevitably production values will increase, and many of the developers will get even bigger.  Venture Capital is already flowing into the market (PlayFirst is VC funded). 

Some developers want to cultivate an "I’m too cool to care what’s commercial" attitude.  That’s fine.  But 99% of consumers don’t care if you’re "Indie" enough or not.  Consumers don’t even know what indie is.  But consumers do know Casual games.  They may not know them by that label, but they go to MSN, Yahoo, Real and other portals, and play and buy these games.  If PopCap goes and creates a hard-core wargame, it’s not going to sell, regardless of whether PopCap is "Indie" or not. 

Anyways, my company fits the bill as both Indie (I’m the only employee, working with a contract artist and musician), and Casual (the game I’m close to finishing is a Casual game along the lines of Bookworm).  But the Indie part is meaningless to me – it just happens to be convenient to my lifestyle at the moment. 

In the film industry, there is a clutch of loyal ‘high-brow’ movie-goers who clamor for ‘Indie’ movies – winners of awards from Cannes and Sundance.  But there’s been no evidence so far of any such interest in gaming.  Perhaps that’ll grow over time, but for now, I’m betting on the growth of Casual games, but really don’t care much one way or the other about Indie games.

 

Fun Link for the Day

An adventure game implemented entirely in HTML (no, not DHTML, just plain ol’ regular HTML.)

A Dog’s Life

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

“A Dog’s Life” is an older PS/2 title that came and went without anybody noticing. You play the role of a dog, trying to find and rescue your female counterpart.

It’s a cute game, and has been my kids (4 and 6) favorite for weeks. They can’t really complete the main quest, but they enjoy controlling the dog.  It’s a cute fun game overall, and well worth picking up used for $15 or so. The downside? It reminds me why I stopped playing first person shooters – the camera is jerky and after playing for 15 minutes or so, I get nauseous.  This isn’t a problem for my kids of course – for that matter, they can sit and spin in my office chair for two minutes or more without getting dizzy.

WordPress Beats the Pants off of Xoops

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

I had been using Xoops for my blog, but I’m now experimenting with this new version, using WordPress. So far, it seems much easier to use than Xoops. (Just making the word much italicized would have been a huge ordeal in Xoops).

Anyways, I’m still puttering with the WordPress setup and getting used to it.  I’ll post something more detailed later.

I was partly inspired to switch by Jakob Nielsen’s excellent article on Weblog Usability. In re-fashioning this blog, I tried to do right by as many of his top 10 list as possible. I think I’m ok on all but #7 and #8.

The old site is still here:
http://philsteinmeyer.com/modules/news/oldindex.php

Last call for Beta Testers

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

My game (a casual word puzzle game) is just about done, but I think I’ll likely do one more round of beta testing. If you’re interested, use the contact link (upper left of this page), or drop me a line at psteinmeyer A T charter D 0 T net.