Casual Games Conference
The first annual Casual Games Conference was held in Seattle on 7/19 and 7/20. The purpose of the conference is for developers and publishers to share information, which would result in better games and distribution. Some of the topics covered were Creative Plagiarism, Contracts and Royalties, Appealing to the Casual Gamer, and Advergaming. As a developer for Palm and Window Mobile games I attended to learn more about the online and PC download market.
Two of the sessions riveted me, Advergaming and Contracts and Royalties. Advergaming is advertising in games. Advertisers imaginations are boundless when it comes to ways of pushing products. This ranges from overt ads in the games, such as an add for a fast food chain in the background of a virtual racing track to placing a product, like name brand candy, into the scene of a simulation game. One Advergamer talked about making an entire game with the product as the main character, think Nickelodeon. Contracts and Royalties was fun as it was like being at a Star Wars movie. The developers cheered when a publisher presented a favorable revenue sharing scheme and booed when they didn’t. I was very impressed with all the different methods publishers have come up with distributing and selling. The most impressive was charging for game parts. Let’s say you are in a game but you need a special wand to continue, not problem, buy one. I love going to a conference and learning how other people think and clearly these publishers have some unique ideas.
As a Palm and Windows Mobile developer I was acutely aware of the lack of representation. When I approached several companies, such as Microsoft, they did not have a mobile platform representative. I was disappointed. A tie-in with a PDA like a Treo 650 would be fantastic. A user could be playing a head to head game on their Treo 650 against a PC user. Or a player could start a game on their PC, like Bejeweled, stop 1/2 way through, sync to their PDA and continue the game on the bus. Mobile phones were discussed, usually in the context of how expensive and difficult it is to develop across so many models with specific and non-conforming requirements. Of course these problems are minimized on Palms and to a lesser degree on Window Mobile devices.
Overall I enjoyed the energy of the conference and meeting up with old friends but wished for additional coverage for PDAs. I think the publishers are missing an opportunity to show-off their games and the mobile nature of PDAs can be viewed as free advertisement.
Given the response that PalmSource and Tapwave both received at the GDC in 2004, it wasn’t a surprise that neither was there in official force at the event this year. The big games industry isn’t that interested in what is (to them) a niche use of a niche device.
Microsoft’s strategy (for Windows Mobile) has always been via the enterprise first, and games are so far off their radar, they won’t even register.
The crossover between casual games and PDA users is certainly valid though. The question is, how much of the games industry really sees casual games as valid?
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