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The future of gaming: Casual Gaming

Entertainment is an activity best shared. And video games are no different. Ever since network play first emerged, playing games became a social affair. So what’s the future of Casual Gaming?

Entertainment is an activity best shared. And video games are no different. Ever since network play first emerged, playing games became a social affair. So what’s the future of Casual Gaming?

Not everyone likes adrenaline-fueled slaughter and mayhem, as brought to you by successful video game franchises like Bungie’s Halo, or Id Software’s Quake and Doom, as well as Unreal Tournament by Epic Games.

But plenty of people still like to play simple, fun and mildly engaging games, just to while away the time between the commute, meetings and class.

What is Casual Gaming?

On your way to work, you sit out your journey on the train. It’s crowded, but it’s a nice day, so who cares, right?

It’s not like you can read a chapter from that new book in your satchel, there’s just not enough time for that. So you fire up a game of Tetris on your iPod. Man, does this take you back!

Going for the high score, now — watch out!

Games like Tetris or Sudoku are very much casual, simply because they command very little of your time, often completed in minutes rather than hours and appealing broadly to children, the elderly and women.

Let’s face it, in between slaying Covenant hordes, burnin’ rubber through Santa Monica, or figuring out a way across a treacherous rope bridge, there’s still a place for Frogger.

The future of Casual Gaming

You need look no further than the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch to see that Casual Gaming is on the agenda:

“It’s clear that casual gaming won’t be restricted to just the iPod range, but extend out towards the iPhone, too.”

As a market, Casual Gaming has enormous appeal to a very wide audience, certainly much wider than genres like FPS (First Person Shooter) action games.

Just look at the wide selection of games that the Nintendo DS supports as an example of the penetration of Casual Gaming.

Those of my generation will feel the warm tingle of nostalgia — golden oldies and classics now enjoying something of a renaissance with an entirely new generation of gamers.

As a market, Casual Gaming was tipped to take off in 2005, with “mobile gaming” expected to grow further over the next year:

“Mobile games revenues are expected to grow from $3bn in 2006 to $10bn by 2009, according to new research.”

In effect, Mobile Gaming is synonymous with Casual Gaming these days, though the former does still allow for more involving video game entertainment, like the aforementioned action franchises.

Moving forward, with a wide-ranging audience to grow into, there appears to be plenty of room for the likes of Apple and the iPod Touch, the Nintendo DS, Sony’s PlayStation Portable and the rumored Xbox Portable, too.

Though the latter three of these devices offer up enough power to play bigger, mainstream video games. But as an audio-visual experience, they can’t really compare to their larger brethren often found in living rooms and bedrooms around the world.

So the future of Casual Games may not be one of increased audio-visual appeal or technical sophistication, but one of a nostalgia for classic recycled titles and a desire to share and compete with friends, relatives and colleagues alike, though not necessarily in “real time”.

Sharing our experiences is where the real innovation will come. And the key infrastructure that will enable shared Casual Gaming will be “Wi-Fi” wireless networking, or at the very least reduced cost mobile telephony.

But what happens when you do want more — when Casual Gaming isn’t enough? Then roll up your sleeves, put the dog in the kitchen, secure all expensive ornaments and move the chairs & sofa out of the way.

This is Interactive Gaming

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

7 replies on “The future of gaming: Casual Gaming”

I don’t know whether the portable Xbox will ever happen, but Microsoft did announce games for their Zune media players at this year’s Game Developer Conference. Also, I’ve been hearing rumours about casual gaming tie-ins with mainstream Xbox 360 and PC titles, whereby you would buy a game for the 360, which would perhaps have a puzzle aspect, which could be loaded onto a Windows Mobile phone or Zune, so you could take it on the go, play casually, and affect your progress through the main game on the bigger platform. It’s an interesting idea!

Casual gaming is a huge market, and it will grow significantly in the next several years. The only problem is the limitations of size for all the screens. Having a tiny screen hurts a lot of people’s eyes, and the sound quality is nowhere near that of a next gen system.

Hi Jonathan! I think the article I linked to sort of nailed it for me. Because both Sony and Nintendo are already in that space, Microsoft are under a lot of pressure to deliver.

Hi Doug! Having tried out a Sony PlayStation Portable, that sort of screen size isn’t that bad.

Those early Nokia N-Gage devices were terrible, though…

I’ve thought about this long and hard – whether or not Wii deserves to be compared with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox. they’re selling (almost) completely different things and just because they are all gaming consoles is kind of like saying all MacDonald’s and [insert Michelin-star restaurant here] are all the same – that they sell food. so it prompted me to write an article about not thinking of Wii going head on with PlayStation 3 and Xbox to see what the response was.

M, I think you make a valid point.

I can see where you’re coming from, but in the end, it’s about perception, market share and ultimately cold hard cash.

In the eyes of your average Jill & Joe out there, they have a budget and they’re going to choose between the three consoles — PlayStation 3, Xbox and the Nintendo Wii.

It’s unlikely that they’re going to buy the PlayStation 3 or Xbox for the death-kill-thrill and the Nintendo Wii for edifying enlightenment.

So it’s going to be either one or t’other.

Also, in the minds of both Sony and Microsoft, regardless of the target audience, because it’s a question of either family or personal budget, they too will see Nintendo as a direct competitor, too.

BTW, watch out for the second installment, lined up for Monday.

And thanks again!

Wayne, I think you have a point too.
I also think that again, it’s down to the fact that marketing and branding is extremely subjective and it depending on how you define yourself, the results are going to always differ. If Nintendo defined themselves as a family oriented entertainment company, their customers are going to very different to what their customer would be like now.
I like this blog. It seems to have more intellectual people here than over some other tech blogs I’ve been looking at, where the comment-ers (commentators?) sound like 10 year olds fighting over which Power Ranger is stronger.

M, you’re too kind.

You’re going to see some wide-ranging topics, but I try to keep the stuff I talk about challenging and interesting to read.

So thank you.

BTW, in your first comment, I deleted the link from with the comment itself and moved it into to URL field.

This is because the comment body is “nofollow” while the URL field isn’t.

Plus, “deep linking” is perfectly fine, so long as the article is relevant.

I’m no ‘Net Nazis…

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