What's Your Budget?
The global gaming industry generated $135 billion last year, which represents a whopping 10.9% increase on 2017. With gaming giants such as Steam and Epic Games offering a plethora of high quality gaming options, users are spoilt for choice when they log onto their laptop or mobile device.
In the midst of this however, it’s easy to forget the casual gaming market, which has been steadily gaining traction mainly because of mobile and browser-based gaming. Over the last decade or so, various gaming providers have managed to identify an area of the market which the Steams and Epics of the gaming world have failed to nail down. But just how have they done this? And how do they continue to thrive in such a cutthroat environment?
It goes without saying that casual games are designed for casual gamers. But what does the term casual actually mean, in a gaming sense? A casual gamer is often no less serious in their gaming exploits than a “hardcore” or “veteran” gamer but they simply play less frequently or irregularly than the aforementioned gaming types. With this in mind, increased accessibility from browser gamers makes perfect sense for casual gamers – they often can’t or simply don’t want to spend time downloading games and instead prefer to hop on and bash buttons at their leisure. The online casino industry is a perfect example of this, with users able to instantly access the Kitty Bingo site and similar platforms, which provide a plethora of different themed slot games without the need to download any software, as well as other titles such as bingo. Another example are the options over at the Kongregate website, where indie developers upload what are usually smaller titles which people can simply browse to and play on Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
The Rise of Free-to-Play Gaming
It’s true that you often get what you pay for. However, this isn’t strictly the case within the gaming sphere. While the best downloadable games require a pass which can set you back around $30, the large majority of browser-based games are free to play. Again, this plays right into the hands of casual gamers, who would much prefer to keep their hands in their pocket given their fleeting interest in online gaming. However, this isn’t to say that it’s not possible to spend real money while playing, with models like freemium and shareware offering additional functionality or more rounds. The opportunity to spend real money is very much still there for those who want to enhance their experience or get ahead.
The speed and flexibility of modern browsers has meant that those who prefer browser based gaming are no longer required to put up with poor graphics and sluggish gameplay. In fact, it’s fair to say that many of today’s online games wouldn’t look out of place on a next-generation console. The main real difference between Steam based games such as Dota 2 and titles such as Armor Games’ browser-based Street Skater is depth, whether that be in the characters, storyline or playability of the game. But again, this suits the casual gamer who wants a game that they can instantly engage with little effort and doesn’t require too many hours of their time to get right.
The Future of Casual Gaming
Apple look set to continue their foray into the casual gaming market with their new Arcade service launching later this month. However, at $4.99 a month, it’s difficult to imagine that casual gamers will feel tempted to make the switch. Elsewhere, Nintendo are almost ready to launch a version of their ever popular Mario Kart game for mobile devices, will which exist under the “freemium” umbrella. Ultimately, more and more firms are now identifying the benefits of penetrating the casual gaming market and this means we are likely to see more high profile efforts of this nature in the future. Either way, casual gamers are the real winners. And that’s fine by us.