Gabe Zichermann of rmbr.com spoke with ebullience and verve of the chutzpah that has to some extent defined the casual game industry since Bejeweled
sprung from the void in 2001. Zichermann implied that, on a level, the whole idea of a casual gamer is more of a “media meme” than anything real. He attributes the myth of casual game market to a mixture of somewhat mundane factors.
Since the beginning, PopCap’s rallying cry – in retrospect mostly a marketing spiel – has been that casual games are different. When 18-to-39 year old males look at Bejeweled
or Diner Dash
, they intuit that clearly these games aren’t aimed at them. And finally, the media sure does love itself a good story. Did you realize that girls play video games too? News at eleven!
So who is the casual gamer? The stereotype is old, retired, middle-to-low-income women – or some combination of the above factors. In fact, statistically, few of these factors even in isolation represent a majority of the audience.
By focusing on this narrow demographic range, the industry tends to ignore wide swaths of a potential audience – in particular, under-twelves; youths from 13-24, and men from 18-34.
All of these audiences have been poorly served by casual games, with established TV brands “way ahead of where we are” in the children’s market; Xbox Live Arcade serving a piddling selection of games to a large audience, and even young, hypothetically prime audiences just as drawn to poorly-designed community sites like Myspace as they are to targeted casual games like Neopets.
“Basically, we haven’t made a dent [into these markets], and I think we really could,” Zichermann concluded.