Predictions For Casual Games In 2009

Yesterday, we looked at trends in casual gaming for 2008. Today, I’m offering my predictions for casual gaming in 2009.

#1 – Casual Games Will Prove Their Mettle
After 9/11 and the dotcom crash, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 22% … but video game revenue climbed 43%. With that, and the maxim that inexpensive entertainment booms during hard times, it’s no wonder that many think casual games will prove recession proof. Will all casual game providers make it through the crunch? Probably not; no one’s invincible. The casual game providers who do survive will have–besides interesting products–a diversified mix of revenue streams.

#2 – The End Of DRM As We Know It
The industry will learn from the Spore debacle. Rather than risk consumer backlash, alternatives will be sought that focus on a game’s strengths and make the legal version of the game more valuable than the pirated version. Online components–such as a solid authentication system that does not interfere with a customer’s right to enjoy the game (think, Valve’s STEAM)–will be the beginning.

#3 – Underpricing Of iPhone Game Apps Will Continue
In the race to cash in on the iPhone goldrush, app providers–including game developers–are trying to grab market share by slashing prices at an hysterical rate. Many are in danger of pricing themselves out of existence. While I hope developers start to understand that lowering prices actually decreases the value of their products in the eyes of consumers, there’s no indication that anyone (including Apple) is trying to rectify the situation.

#4 – The Rise Of Online Game Shows
Game shows and reality TV shows are big business offline–and they’re hitting their stride online. Established players, such as my own site, Gamesville.com, are launching new game shows for free cash prizes every few months. Newcomers PlayCafe and Amuso focus on user-generated game shows, and a Newton, MA, entrepreneur just launched his own “televised” online game show. Microsoft acquired shopping-oriented game show site Jellyfish in 2007, and plans to launch “programmatic, highly concurrent social interactive games” (eg, “game shows“) in 2009. The online game show space is heating up, and will only get hotter.

#5 – Turbulent Times Will Spark Innovation
Some analysts believe that hard economic times will stifle innovation in games. I disagree. Sure, companies may feel the need to batten down the hatches but other industries have demonstrated that cutting back on R&D during down times is not necessarily good business sense. To survive, game makers need products that satisfy value-minded consumers; they also need to continue introducing and executing new concepts and ideas–otherwise, it truly is game over.

Take a look back at the year that was: Check out the top trends in casual games in 2008…

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9 thoughts on “Predictions For Casual Games In 2009”

  1. I agree, there is a problem in the Apple iPhone store. We’re working on a game right now and “free” doesn’t really work for us as a business model, not after all the time we’ve spent on this. Hopefully it turns around soon.

  2. Hi Christian –

    If your product is good, and the market is there, I believe you can command a fair price for it and benefit off your work.

    Depending on who you listen to, online advertising is either going to tank or escape relatively unscathed. Based on what I’m seeing, the glass right now still appears half-full. If you decide to go “free”, there are alternatives.

    Look into mobile advertising as a potential alternative method of generating revenue: Greystripe and Admob, in particular, appear to be doing well right now.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  3. Interesting predictions, Chris. I tend to agree with most of what you’ve mentioned – especially predictions #1 and #5. I work for a company that just launched a new “casual gaming” website a little over a month ago (http://www.ponged.com ), and have been focusing on hand-picking and hosting free Flash games that appeal to the more “hardcore” gaming audiences – console gamers in particular.

    The quality of some of the newer titles being released has really shattered a lot of the preconceptions I had about browser-based gaming in general. Bite-sized experiences are still prevalent, but there are an increasing number of free offerings that have the quality, depth, and even length of experience that rival some mainstream retail games. A tangible example of this is the recent influx of games making their way from the “casual” gamespace to more mainstream channels – including traditional retail and even newer channels like Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, or Wii-ware.

    It’s also worth noting that Flash game developers aren’t typically beholden to corporate publishers, meaning that most of the development limitations placed on a new game have to do with the developer’s own time, resources, and skill-sets. No idea is too risky to pursue, and if the idea might make a good Flash game, someone will try it eventually.

    I guess the point I’m making is that while the economy will most likely factor in to some folks interest in exploring casual games in a positive way, the quality of what is available (especially in relation to the free Flash gamespace) is poised to meet and exceed expectations as time goes on.

  4. Hi Jeff –

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I agree: Web games created by indies do allow for more experimentation, with a much different set of restrictions, than games created by corporations. And we’ll probably see more Flash games make the jump from the web to retail–like Line Rider, like Alien Hominid–as the year progresses.

    Are you going to be in the Boston area this May? If so, be sure to stop by the Independent Game Conference to check out what’s coming new in Flash games, and more. See their website for details at http://www.independentgameconference.com/

    Hope to see you there!

    – Chris

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