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The Casual and Mobile Boom (2010-present)
Casual games are defined by their opposition to “hardcore” games. Where a hardcore game takes commitment and focus and features cutting-edge graphics and complex game mechanics, casual games require no real dedication, feature simple graphics and are often easy to learn and play in a short time (Juul, 2010). Yet despite the moniker, so-called “casual” gaming is the largest, most tectonic force in the history of the medium. It is also a case study in how supply, demand, cultural shifts and new technologies can create an industry almost overnight. First, consider the numbers behind casual gaming. Whereas the target population of “mainstream,” console gaming is males 18-35, casual games target everyone and attract a 60% female audience (Taylor, 2010). Typical console games cost $15-25 million to develop, last about 3 months and reach from 500,000 to four million players. Typical social and casual games cost $250-500 thousand to develop, last about 9 months and reach 10-50 million or more players (Taylor, 2010). One is played for hours, the other minutes. In the U.S. there are about 350 million dedicated game-playing devices, not including cell phones. These are home consoles and portable game players—in other words, the traditional, dedicated game-playing audience. From 2009-2010, there were about 510 million accounts on social and casual games, up from virtually zero two years before. In other words, casual gaming in only two years appeared and rapidly surpassed the 35-year-old mainstream game industry.
Enter the Smartphone
Where did this sudden explosion come from? There are many factors, but the rise and worldwide spread of smart mobile devices has to be at the top of the list. Smart phones now outnumber all other devices and game play is typically one of their primary uses. When you consider the “installed base” of a platform, mobile suddenly wins and disrupts everything.