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Cook: Casual Game Developers, Cast Off Your Chains!

As part of an in-depth Gamasutra feature, developer and Lost Garden blogger Daniel Cook has been discussing empowering the developer in the casual game biz, suggesting
As part of an in-depth Gamasutra feature, developer and Lost Garden blogger Daniel Cook has been discussing empowering the developer in the casual game biz, suggesting that creator-controlled online communities are vital for long-term loyalty. As part of his introduction to the piece, Cook - who has worked in both game and tool development over the previous few years - explains his view of the state of the casual game business: "A few years ago, casual game development has heralded as a safe haven for the independent, creative forces in the game development community. All the past worries of shelf space limitations, ornery publishers and expensive development budgets no longer applied. In the new world of high profit margins, limited middlemen and free green lighting for all, innovation would inevitably flourish. And for the most part, once you account for Sturgeon's inevitable law that 90% of everything is crap, this is exactly what happened. More game developers poured into the market and some truly wonderful games were born. Middlemen, however, were not eliminated. They merely evolved. In the place of brick and mortar stores, portals emerged. Instead of limited shelf space, there was limited access to top ten lists. Instead having your company name sidelined in the spirit of publisher branding, your game is whitewashed with the portal's brand, advertisements and customer retention systems. In return, the portals offered quick sales on your latest game. Game developers trade their future for a fast sale now and the portals attempt to pick up the long term customer loyalty. Much of this is uncomfortably familiar to the early publisher/developer relationships of years past. How can casual game developers adapt?" Later in the article, Cook goes on to explain the basis of his manifesto, noting: "In order to maintain the biggest piece of the pie possible, casual game developers need to evolve their business strategy... The addition of developer-run online services can help mitigate the weaknesses of the current downloadable business model... A developer's strengths as makers of great games can be turned into a competitive advantage when surviving in an ecosystem filled with larger service-oriented portals." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including lots more detail and examples on ways that casual game developers can evolve their role in the biz to take greater control of their messaging and community.

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