Monday, June 27, 2005

A pessmistic/business view of casual/puzzle games

Lately I've been reading a bit bout the casual/puzzle game market. The pros that are stressed are the low cost and time of development, and the low price/low barrier to purchase. These are all great points but I see one big thing that has mostly been forgotten. Passion and that ingredient x that makes you actually want to buy. There's no great hook to many of these games, and most are not much better than free flash games that you can play for free around the place. Some puzzle games can be pretty addictive i.e. tetris, puzzle fighter but these were easily the creative equals to many other original concept games. Short of a few one offs like Bejeweled, Beezly's Buzzwords etc my opinion is that the mass majority of casual games are just too thin/uncompelling to make anyone really *want* to buy them. Sure they might be enjoyable but if something is just fun for me as a 5 minute diversion or to kill time waiting for a meeting to start etc, does it provide enough entertainment for me to actually shell out? A magazine can do the same job and still be cheaper for example. No matter how cheap something is, someone still has to spend and in order for the transaction to be fulfilled, the product to be purchased must have value. With many other things to spend your money on, food, gas, triple AAA titles, all of which have *arguably* greater value and priority, I dont think a slightly diff version of Tetris or Super Pang will be high on my buy list.

I think the bigger root problem is as always, the large cost, team and time involved in development nowadays. Indy or casual doesnt necessarily mean small or niche market. It always ultimately pains me to see someone basically resign themselves to failure or something smaller when I see someone demoing their small scale puzzle/just for learning game at IGDA or elsewhere. It's been a great learning experience for that person or team no doubt and I am still proud of anyone who has made that journey as I think we all are, but classics like Civilisation or Super Off Road did not have to deal with AAA budgets or teams in the first place but they all had that magic "hook" which if you resign yourself to making a clone you will have an unlikely to no chance of having.

Ultimately I'm not much of a puzzle game man, with the above few Ive mentioned being the few that have had any impact on me. Ive read about all this mobile gaming business too, resurgance of 2D etc too. Hopefully we can remember whatr made some of these 2D games the masterpieces they were, gameplay and fresh concepts and trying to make something that is a must have



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