The Casual Games Manifesto
April 8, 2008 Page 5 of 6
There is no reason for casual game developers to play second fiddle to their distribution channels in the same way that many mainstream game developers bow to their retail-oriented publisher masters.
There are some larger themes at work here.
- Direct relationships with customers. Business models are emerging that let game developers have profitable, direct, long term relationship with their customers.
- Disintermediation. The traditional middlemen are no longer critical to the developer's survival. Maintaining brands and customer relationships can be handled directly by the developers. Managing an expensive portfolio of disposable content is mitigated by the use of community specific game systems.
- Delivery of long term value. The value driving these models is primarily based on socially rich communities, meaningful brands and highly reusable content. Disposable content, in the form of game mechanics that you play for a short period of time and then toss aside, make less sense from a financial perspective.
It will take a long time before all game developers wean themselves off the current crop of middlemen. Just as traditional publishers have not disappeared in the face of online portals, neither will portals disappear in the face of developer-run services.
Instead we are left with a mixed ecosystem populated by developer-run services living alongside powerful, well-established middlemen from the previous era.
It is highly likely that existing middlemen will be slow to adapt to the increased negotiation power of a small, but growing portion of the developers. Many will be outright hostile to what they perceive as a threat to their core business. That's okay.
There is absolutely nothing they can do to stop developers creating exciting services. The smarter portals will figure out how to provide additional value to these bright new customers in the form of efficient marketing and distribution offerings, international operating deals, and other activities that add value.
In the long term, this sea change is a good thing. Business models that liberate developers from the yoke of publisher and portal funding releases powerful market forces that drive product innovation.
Bigger profit margins for self sufficient developers mean that they are more likely to single-handedly take on the "crazy" risks that result in new genres and increased markets.
All in all, the introduction of service-based casual games companies once again makes the casual games market an incredibly exciting and dynamic place to build games. The opportunities for brilliant new businesses are boundless.
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