From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term casual game is used to refer to a category of electronic or computer games targeted at a mass audience. Casual games usually have a few simple rules and an engaging game design, making it easy for a new player to begin playing the game in just minutes. They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer.
Common features of casual games are:
- Extremely simple gameplay, like a puzzle game that can be played entirely using a one-button mouse or cellphone keypad
- Allowing gameplay in short bursts, during work breaks or, in the case of portable and cell phone games, on public transportation
- The ability to quickly reach a final stage, or continuous play with no need to save the game
- No plot or character, or simple ones with no bearing on the game's mechanics
- 2D, abstract graphics
- Some variant on a "try before you buy" business model
The word "casual" indicates that the games are produced for the casual consumer, who comes across the game and can get into gameplay almost immediately. Casual game players do not normally regard themselves as gamers, or fans of video games.
Casual games are usually free on-line or free to download, but may provide a revenue by in-game advertising. These games are typically addictive and the downloaded limited trials encourage casual gamers to buy a permanent "deluxe" version for a small price (typically $20 or less).
(This section is based primarily on observation and conjecture. A more professional approach would be helpful, although the field is so new that such an approach may not be possible.)
Microsoft solitaire, which came free with Microsoft Windows, is widely considered the first successful "casual game" and was particularly played by office workers who were using Windows for their work. Subsequent versions of Windows included Minesweeper, and once Microsoft discovered the popularity of their pack-in solitaire, they improved on it with FreeCell and Spider Solitaire.
In 1989, Nintendo's Game Boy was released with the free pack-in casual game Tetris. Tetris on the Game Boy was immensely popular partially because, as a casual game, it was quick and simple, which was ideal to the portable gaming model.
The advent of Macromedia Flash created a boom in web-based games, while also limiting them to using a single-button mouse, and having no built-in functionality for save states, encouraging designers to create simple games that could be played to completion in one short sitting. The most prominent game from this period was Diamond Mine, released in 2000 by PopCap and licensed by Microsoft, as Bejeweled for their Microsoft Zone.
Casual games received another boost when cell phones with large color displays became the norm because, like Macromedia Flash before them, the cell phones had limited capabilities ideally suited to short, simple games.
Casual games are often computer simulations of common games (such as chess, checkers, pinball, sudoku, solitaire, and mahjong) but also versions of retro games - including the well-known Tetris.
Casual Games Genres
There is no precise classification of casual genres in the modern gaming industry. That can be explained by the easy ideas that form the basis for each game as well as a great amount of genre mixes existing in this field. The most popular casual genres for 2005 are: puzzle, word, casual action, card and board games. Below is the listing of the most popular genres along with the game play description.
- Puzzle Games
- The type of casual games, where a player’s main task is to solve a puzzle, e.g. match the identical pieces on the playing field or place the falling blocks in a line (Tetris). Puzzle games are aimed at training player’s logical thinking and reaction if the game is played at a time limit. The most popular examples of the puzzle games are matching games (Match-3), Tetris, Sudoku games.
- Matching games present the biggest percentage of casual games produced nowadays. The player’s task is to match two, three, or even four identical pieces on the playing field. In order to indicate the identical pieces, the player usually has to swap them with the neighboring ones, shoot, or place them together by mere clicking. Once a player clicks the identical pieces, they are removed from the playing field. The final mission of the matching game is to clear the playing field.
- According to the IGDA Casual Games Developer Whitepaper for 2005, the most popular puzzle game is Big Kahuna Reef, which is an example of a match 3 game. The playing field is formed out of many charts and boxes with different pictures of undersea animals and plants inside. The background for the game is a 2D picture of the undersea.
- Word Games
- These present the second largest category of casual games. In general, the point of every word game is forming a word (or a phrase) out of the letters (or words) on the playing field. The word games are aimed at training writing skills as well as improving the knowledge of spelling or studying a foreign language or learning alphabet for kids. The classic example for a word game is Bookworm Deluxe or Text Twist. The playing field consists of the set of letters of the English alphabet. A player is required to form a word out of the neighboring letters on the playing field by clicking on them.
- Action Games
- These games require a player to participate in an action in order to win. Its main attribute is a character or a set of characters that need to be controlled by a player via keyboard or a mouse.
- Card Games
- Computer clones of the real-world card games. The plot of many casual card games is inherited from the usual games like solitaire, Russian card game Durak etc. The player’s task is to find two matching cards with identical value and place them together.
- Board Games
- Another category of real-world games (checkers, chess, billiards, pool house, Mah Jong). The game takes place on a board similarly to checkers, billiards, mah jong games. General Rules and game play features are preserved.
- Strategy Games
- One of the emerging genres in the casual game industry, strategy games are a a broad grouping which include simulation, role playing and tycoon games. Common themes involve character building, adventure simulations and business scenarios. Casual strategy games are generally less complex than many of their hardcore PC counterparts, but they succeed by utilizing engaging scenarios and characters to satisfy the casual audience.
The internet is the primary distribution channel for casual games. Most casual games are either downloaded as limited-time trials or delivered as Flash or ActiveX objects embedded in a web page. The evaluation copy of a casual game may limit the amount of play time, number of levels, or game sessions. Often more advanced features are not available.
The ease of signing up to affiliate gaming portals, such as Big Fish Games, Real Arcade or Trymedia, has flooded the internet with such sites. These portals typically rank the games by popularity and sales. Games with strong sales typically lead to sequels and knock-offs. Games that do not convert are quickly buried.
In addition to online portals, casual games are increasingly available at major retailers, particularly Wal-mart, Target and Best Buy. The success of Bejeweled at retail, where it sold over 100,000 copies in the US, has made retailers much more open to carrying casual games rather than value priced core games (such as first person shooters, strategy games, etc.). The largest retail publishers of casual games in North America are Mumbo Jumbo (Bejeweled, Luxor, etc.) and Merscom (Buku Blast, DNA, etc.)
Casual Games are also ported to mobile phones. Some mobile casual games allow players to meet and compete against each other (e.g. World Sudoku League).
List of Notable Casual Games
Games listed here have achieved notoriety through lasting popularity or unique contribution to the industry±.
- Bejeweled (PopCap Games)
- Diner Dash (Playfirst)
- Fish Tycoon (Last Day of Work)
- Jewel Quest (iWin.com)
- Minesweeper (Microsoft Windows)
- Slingo (Funkitron/Slingo)
- Solitaire (Microsoft Windows)
- Tetris (The Tetris Company, LLC.)
- Zuma (PopCap Games)
± This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Only list games that are notable.
- Casual gamer
Casual Game Reviews
- Casual Game Guides
- The Diamond Games
- Casual Games, Social Software
- Puzzled Gamer
- Reflexive Arcade
- Game Fools
- Casual Review
- Casual Game News and Reviews
- DeadAnt.com Free Casual Game Downloads and Game Review Blog
Casual Game Studios
- Alawar Entertainment
- Big Fish Games
- Hot Lava
- Red Rover Games
- Sandlot Games
- Skunk Studios
- Sugar Games
Casual Games Development
- Casual games white paper by international game developers association
- Casual Games Association
- Casual Games Conference
- GameYard - Casual Game Developer
- Atrativa Games Latin America
- Casual Game Dev