Delivering a keynote titled “The Supercasual Social Revolution” at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, Digital Chocolate CEO and Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins predicted the rise of the Online Media Gamer (OMG), consumers who ignore graphics but are attracted to online games because of accessibility, portability, and social features.
Consumer Acceptance Of Technology
Hawkins began his presentation by following the history of consumers using technology, starting with the 1970s as access to ATMs and arcades became prevalent.
He moved forward to the late 70s when Apple set about selling personal computers to businesses, noting that the mouse’s introduction and contributions towards making the user experience effective is similar to what’s happening now with the iPhone and touch screens.
“The iPhone is better than Star Trek,” the CEO boasted, lauding the gadget for compacting all of the world’s technology into a handheld device, similar to Star Trek’s Tricorder. He then stated that Apple has defined the archetype, and that in the next 5-10 years, other companies will create this exciting user experience.
He went on to note that with the introduction of the world wide web, consumers were no longer scared of computers. Since then, the internet has become more casual and social, like “old school CB radios,” with sites such as YouTube and Facebook attracting much more traffic than sites for companies like Sony.
Disrupting Online Games
Hawkins commented that while core audiences and companies have primarily focused on seeking better graphics for games, disruptive products are now capturing newer audiences who are thinking, “I’m not a gamer, but I’ll play that.”
That same disruption is also coming to web games, according to the CEO’s predictions. He listed several symptoms backing his prognosis: casual titles are becoming series, web games are costing too much money to build, and Facebook has disrupted the industry.
He also believes that companies are overdoing MMOs - while the genre is huge in Korea due to factors specific to the country, those same factors don’t apply to the rest of the world. Instead, the rest of the world should look into investing in casual virtual worlds. People want the social value of MMOs, not just avatars to play with.
The Omni Media Gamer (OMG)
“What is really crucial is the social value,” he said. When new services designed to bring people together come along, like Starbucks or Facebook, they add social value. As a result, these services are exploding in demand. “The time of traditional media is over. It takes too much time and costs too much.”
“We’re entering the era of Omni Media,” Hawkins continued, describing the new media as driven by personal devices and online social networks. “I don’t think you could call this new marketplace casual.”
Likewise, the Omni Media Gamer isn’t a traditional or strictly casual gamer. Rather, he or she is a consumer who downloads songs from iTunes, personalizes their phone, edits their profile on Facebook, etc. The simpler the technology or game, the more likely Omni Media Gamers will adopt. “People are tired of feeling checked out.”
He pointed out that the Wii is outselling the PlayStation 3 because Nintendo’s console isn’t just attracting hardcore gamers, but inviting others as well. Audience size is inversely related to power, because power is perceived as demanding. With this notion, less is more.
The CEO then listed the attributes Omni Media Gamers are looking for in games: convenient, social, short play sessions, themes, viral, and playable anywhere and anytime on any device or network. It’s unlikely that this model will be led by current front-runners in the social space, such as Youtube or Facebook. Instead, innovators of multiple platforms will most effectively adopt the model.