Has the casual gaming bubble burst?

Bubble

For the past few years now, platform owners and software developers have been trying to get a slice of the casual gaming market. Nintendo certainly captured that market with their DS and Wii, and Facebook has been inundated with addictive, spammy junk from the likes of Zynga and similar companies. Has that cash-filled bubble burst?

Speaking at the The Digital Game Monetization Summit in San Francisco, Rumble Entertainment’s boss Greg Richardson revealed that casual gaming accounted for just 10 per cent of the global spend on videogames.

“If you look at what people successfully did on Facebook or the early days of mobile, a lot of it was about cheap user acquisition through the spammy virality that Facebook allowed for a while, or manipulations of the terms of service from Apple or Google on the mobile side. That’s gone away,” said Greg Richardson, CEO of Rumble Entertainment.

“Of the $50 billion that was spent worldwide last year on games, less than 10 percent was spent on casual content. These companies were really smart around analytics and monetization and very light in terms of product and content creation. I’m not sure any of those things are particularly sustainable. The future lies in going into the larger part of the market which is people that self-identify as gamers, and where the user acquisition and long-term value creation comes from making great games.”

It seems the bottom might be falling out for casual games. I have no issue with them personally, but I do take umbrage when companies that traditionally cater to the core markets focus far too much in the way of resources on something that’s proving itself to be unsustainable. One could argue that it led to the downfall of THQ, whose executives decided it would be a great idea for the company to pour all of its financial resources in to casual junk like the uDraw tablet.

Even Nintendo, who made huge bank with the then-untapped casual market has decided it would try and recapture the core market with its new Wii U console.

I don’t think casual gaming will be going away any time soon, but the companies involved are going to have to start doing a whole lot more to monetise their games, and they’re slowly starting to realise that a focus on quality, and actually making genuinely engaging games is the only way to do that.

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Author:Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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