Casual Connect Seattle 2009: Social And iPhone Steal The Show

Written by Administrator on August 20, 2009 – 1:39 pm -

It’s been a few weeks and the memories of Seattle’s Casual Connect still looms with many of us. Casual Connect, hosted by the Casual Game Association, allows game developers, publishers, musicians, game tool developers and anyone else that loves the casual game industry to come and meet with each and chew the fat.

Every year the meat of the discussion seems to change at Casual Connect. Last year, it was all about mergers and partnerships between companies and the big boys coming into the space. Nickelodeon announced their entry into the casual game industry with new games and money awards for games placed on its casual flash game site and the partnerships RealNetworks created with mainstream companies to provide more casual game content.

This year however, iPhone and Facebook were the talk of the show with the visionaries talking about the future being in cloud gaming. Cloud gaming will allow gamers to play a game on their phones, gaming consoles and computers with all your scores and other features being synchronized. With announcement functions inside Facebook to tell your friends of your high scores, this will force gamers to get to their nearest gaming system and try to beat it.

iPhone has grown up since last year to be a contender with the Nintendo DS as the new gaming system. Dean Takahashi commented that more than 300 games are made per day for the iPhone. (This has dropped to close to 100 today accorcding to Mobclix.) This may seem a lot and just adds more worry to the big game publishers as the top ten spots get more and more crowded. But with the amount of money that companies such as Ngmoco, EA Mobile and Gameloft are supposedly making, it’s a tough decision not to get in with the iPhone.

Facebook has become the social media hub and the allowance of applications has allowed for an explosion of games onto the site. With very little tweaking, anyone could create a game to play on the site and share your activities to all your closest friends. Companies like Zynga have jumped onto the trend with other notable companies Popcap, Gamehouse, and Microsoft placing their biggest hits onto the site. It’s a big market as with the iPhone and can lead to the same issues as the iPhone. The only positive that it has over iPhone mass of games is that Facebook’s recommendation mechanisms allow for much easier word of mouth for the players to share their favorite games with friends.

Some companies who decide on iPhone and Facebook for their future game development have also talked about an item that many old timers like myself have heard repeated at Casual Connect: Micro-Transactions. These are items you buy for a penny or a nickel that will let you do things inside a game. Be it dress up an avatar, buy certain special items, or unlock a new level. This has been quite popular in China and Korea with companies like GoPets and Nexon taking some lead in the market. But now it is being re-introduced again to a western audience this year. Listening to the mistakes people made when talking about their games reminded me of the mistakes made in Korea a few years ago in their casual space.

Mochi Media also announced micro-transactions at Casual Connect. Their plan is to create micro-transactions for flash developers that allow anyone to make a game that can be placed on numerous websites and still get paid for their work. This can include new guns, level skipping, and whatever the game developer wants. The plan is probably the best evolution of the flash game. This will allow much more developers to create better flash games and allow any small game creator a chance to test out new ideas and become better developers while having some cash flow come in that isn’t upfront advertising.

Like all years, there is a ton of great information for anyone who is interested to look at and see what the casual space is doing, what you can learn from it or how to get into the space yourself. The greatest thing about Casual Connect and the Casual Game Association is that all the talks are free to listen to. If you go to their lecture site, you can hear the talk and download the slides that came with it. I hope other people (*cough* GDC) will do this in the future. I love it and I know I’m not the only one.

Hope you enjoyed this recap and see you at next year’s event!

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