Casuality Seattle, a conference for casual game developers, publishers, and distributors, was held June 27-29, 2006 in Seattle, Washington. The event was organized by the Casual Games Association (CGA), which was formed to provide educational resources, community support, visibility, and collaboration for those involved in the casual games industry. The venue drew in 700 registered attendees.
According to CGA numbers in a DFC Intelligence joint market report, the casual games industry made $713 million (USD) in 2005 and revenue is estimated to grow to $1.56 billion (USD) in 2008. Relevant to the location of the conference, North American casual game revenues in 2005 were at $314 million, 45% of the worldwide total. Emphasizing why people should get involved in the casual games industry, the number of consumers attracted to free casual games is estimated to be over 150 million worldwide.
However, the casual games industry is still hit driven. 35% of downloadable sales when to the top 5 games, 60% went to the top 10, and 75% went to the top 20. Effectively, games that don’t reach the top 20 mark lose out on a great amount of sales. Jessica Tams, Casuality Seattle organizer, stressed in the conference's welcoming speech that the statistics should not scare off involvement in the casual games industry, but rather raise the bar of effort and research from teams.
Along with booths lining the downstairs and upstairs lobby areas of the venue and several meetings for various casual games groups, the conference held a number of sessions. Speakers included representatives from RealNetworks, Electronic Arts, PopCap Games, iWin Inc., Microsoft Casual Games, Macrovision Trymedia Games, Big Fish Games, LargeAnimal, GarageGames, and Freeze Tag, among others.
On Tuesday, June 27, topics encompassed marketing casual games, designing casual games for the mobile platform, and designing casual games overall. Featured keynotes included Bing Gordon, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts, who discussed what games industry as a whole can learn from the casual games industry, as well as Rob Glaser, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks, who reflected on RealNetworks’ experiences in becoming one of the largest paid internet subscription services.
A panel of industry professionals discussed the state of the casual games industry. They identified the greatest accomplishments, greatest threats, and the movement of the future for the industry. They referenced accomplishments such as successfully establishing the ‘try before you buy’ distribution model and creating ‘games for women.’ However, the casual games industry, according to the panel, still has a poor discovery rate with fragmented user communities. A more alarming threat comes in the form of cloning and knock-off games, a concern without a proposed solution.
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Interestingly, the panel found that ‘hardcore’ gamers now detox with casual games. “Isn’t everyone a potential casual gamer?” posed panel moderator Gabe Zichermann, CMO of Boonty. Looking ahead, the panel believes that the PC will continue to dominate the distribution forms, although the Wii and the convergence of mobile and handheld platforms offer new opportunities.
Opportunities for change arise in many forms in the casual games industry. Kenny Dinkin, VP and Executive Producer at PlayFirst, Inc., kicked off Wednesday, June 28 with an insightful presentation on the need for story and narrative in casual games. Dinkin feels that by looking at alternative forms of narrative and focusing on aesthetic thematic narrative, casual games can achieve emotional connections to players and thus improve rates of keeping players interested in buying from downloads and continuing with franchises.
Later sessions touched on topics including casual games business models, alternative channels for casual games, casual game postmortems, microtransaction game play models for community building, and negotiating contracts between developers and publishers.
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Interactive advertising, advergaming, and other advertising models such as commercial integration in casual games continued to be a focus throughout the first two days and into Thursday, June 29. Informative indie game development sessions were exclusive to the last day of the conference, ranging from community building, improving try-to-buy conversion ratios, comparing development tools, to developing for all platforms.
CGA is making an effort to build up the casual games industry and bring in new ideas while supporting those with strong history. The market strategy of casual games is moving away from ‘games for women’ to ‘games for everyone.’ Referencing CGA’s joint market report with DFC Intelligence, North American casual gaming revenue more than doubled online console gaming revenue in 2005. Macrovision Corporation, which operates the Trymedia Network for the digital distribution of PC games, found from its 789 survey participants that casual gamers are spending close to 20 hours a week playing casual games.
With statistics that indicate a dedicated player base for casual games capable of applying to several demographics, CGA members and Casuality Seattle presenters called into question the term ‘casual games.’ Branding has solidified, but the professionals behind casual games intend to expand market potential and build a role for casual games in advertising media through ongoing future events and strides in game development.
Gamasutra's Prior Coverage of Casuality Seattle, 2006
Casuality Keynote: RealNetworks’ Rob Glaser “We make games for the rest of us,” began Rob Glaser, founder/CEO of RealNetworks during his Casuality Seattle keynote on Tuesday, June 27 in Seattle, Washington. Glaser has been in the PC game business for 25 years. He watched games move from arcade to console and the game industry form a focused business on narrowed-in genres and specific consumers.
Casuality Keynote: Electronic Arts' Bing Gordon “This is my casual gaming machine,” joked Bing Gordon as he brought out his Dell XPS for his presentation. Casuality Seattle opened with a keynote by Gordon, a co-founder and Chief Executive of Electronic Arts, on Tuesday, June 27 in Seattle, Washington. Gordon aimed to share lessons he feels the entire game industry can learn from casual games.
Casuality: Luxor, Mah Jong Quest, Fish Tycoon Devs Talk Postmortems The team leads behind the casual games Luxor, Mah Jong Quest, and Fish Tycoon met for the panel 'Casual Games Postmortems: How To Make A Great Casual Game' at Casuality Seattle on Wednesday, June 28. The panel immediately jumped into breaking down the process of creating a successful casual game, from idea to launch and sales.
Casuality Panel: Getting The Most Out Of Your Contract “Nobody gets paid until something gets sold,” said Business Development representative of Reflexive Michael Mei as he set the tone for the panel ‘Negotiation: What to Look for in a Contract’, held on Wednesday, June 28 at the Casuality Seattle conference. A range of representatives from the game industry met to discuss the developer and publisher relationship in the context of contract negotiation.