Mobile Gaming is Huge…and it’s Staying: Rise of the Casual Gamer

This article was originally published in June 2013 on Pixelvolt.com. It has not been updated. The website has updated since then and is no longer active on Pixelvolt.com.

Angry Birds is an example of a popular video game that can be defined as a casual game.

Google defines a casual game as a video game that is intended to be used by a mass audience, and casual gamers as people who play video games, but whose time and/or interest is limited. These games can be found in any genre, but the smartphone has given casual gamers a new playing field to roam and explore. Since console, handheld, and PC gamers tend to think of themselves as more skilled and serious in their craft (often time for good reason), the idea of the casual gamer really took off with the introduction of mobile games and websites such as Facebook.

Why? As opposed to hardcore games requiring a specific skill set and time commitments, casual games are usually characterized as games that don’t have too much complexity to gameplay and can be picked up and left off at the player’s discretion. Since casual gaming is arguably more widespread because of the platform it uses, the casual gaming community was able to grow as quickly as it did. It is difficult to find a person now who hasn’t played at least one video game, making games more of an accepted and integrated part of our society.

When the mobile phone was introduced in 1983, the clunky design made it impractical for common use and no one thought that games would have been impacted by this technology. It was not until Tetris appeared on the Hagenuk MT-2000 in 1994 that the idea of mobile gaming was really starting to come around. But what does that have anything to do with gamers now? Who cares about where all this started? No one has yet to explain how to block annoying game requests on Facebook, so why should this matter?

It matters because now it has become an aspect of the gaming industry that is rising to profitable standards. According to Forbes, it’s expected to become an $8.64 billion industry by 2014. That’s a few months away from now. As of June 17, there are 152,032 active apps in the games category on the iPhone App Store. On the Google Play Store, 15.7 percent of all apps are categorized as games. That adds up to about 46,735 games on the Android market. On Facebook, there are about 2,431 apps that are in the games category. With so many options for casual gamers, it isn’t too surprising to figure out how causal games have found a way to make a profit in this ever-changing industry. Even Square Enix, who we all know and love as the wonderful team that brought the Final Fantasy series to the world, jumped on the bandwagon and released full games for the mobile audience (including Final Fantasy IV which we reviewed to see how it ranks up, you should probably check it out).

In a study of the gaming industry done by Parks Associates, the number of gamers increased from 56 million to 135 million from 2008 to 2011. With the way that the gaming industry as a whole is shifting, we can expect this number to increase in the next few years.

Some games, such as Candy Crush Saga and the Bejeweled series, are even moving between mobile and online gaming to attract more casual gamers. Whether or not this is effective has really depended on the game. While the two aforementioned games have transitioned into a variety of platforms without too much trouble, other games such as Avengers Alliance on Facebook may have to work a bit harder before moving onto the mobile market.

Many of us remember the insanity that ensued when the (insert noun here) –ville games were released on Facebook. After Farmville was released, there seemed to be an endless wave of cheesy knock-offs that invaded the site and brought friendships everywhere to its knees.

But why mention how it all started? Most of what has been seen from casual games are puzzle games or social games that require you to spam friends or spend actual money in order to access some kind of locked feature to enhance the game. Yes, it was years ago and the latest craze of Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga is keeping everyone occupied. Yet if we don’t figure out where it’s been, we can’t predict where it’s going to go.

The solid line between hardcore and casual gaming looks like it’s starting to become a dotted one, giving video game companies a reason to start paying attention to the casual gamer. Will other games follow suit to get more money? Or will companies remain loyal to the tried and true that is multiplayer gaming? It all depends on whether or not companies will want to invest in the new frontier of smartphones and mobile gaming.

Thanks to smartphones and casual games on Facebook among other websites, almost everyone plays video games, meaning gaming can’t be ignored as an impacting industry. With the addition of this new niche to the gaming industry, what are gamers to expect from their games in the future? While there is no single answer, we may have to just wait and see.

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