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Feature: 'Innovation in Casual Games: A Rallying Cry'

Casual games are sometimes criticized for 'lack of innovation' , but in this exclusive Gamasutra opinion piece, game producer Juan Gril compares classic arcade games to today's casual market, arguing for a blend of incremental and radical innovation to mo
Despite heartening strides in the casual game industry, people still play and buy more Bejeweled on PC than any other casual game on the Wii, not to mention that it exists on every single device PopCap has been able to port it to. Because of issues like this, the casual game industry has a tough time proving that "innovative casual game design" isn't an oxymoron. And yet, there's something about Bejeweled that keeps players coming back. Casual game producer Juan Gril, formerly of Yahoo! Games Studios and currently of Joju Games, recalls his own gaming evolution, which began with Space Invaders, and continued through Galaga, Xevious and every other Space Invaders clone. He wonders: "But do casual players do the same thing today? Is it possible that casual game players are feeling the same way as I did? That is -- they like a particular game mechanic and play the new games as long as they have something new?" Hoping to answer this question, Gril mined the Real Arcade ranking archives to compare all of the match-three puzzlers that have sustained more than 4 weeks in the top 10, and found a surprise: "It turns out that when you clean out the list, and only look at the hits, in most cases they have a unique feature. Curiously enough, no game that could be considered a "clone" (a game that doesn't have any new gameplay feature) enters the list. I invite you all to play these games -- after all, they are available online and are free for the first hour." So it turns out that casual games have been innovating -- just a little bit. But where is the radical innovation? You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, where Gril looks at arcade trends of the past to parse out the evolution of casual games today (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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