Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Services Strategy for Casual Games

Gamasutra posted up an article that has been bouncing around in my documents folder for a little while. The original title was "A Services Strategy for Casual Games", but the new one is a bit more punchy.

One response that I've heard quite a bit is that portals will never allow user data to be released back to developers. This is quite true for most established portals that have traditionally focused on selling packaged goods online. However, middlemen adapt and markets flow around stupidity. More sophisticated variations on sites like are bound to emerge. If a dozen portals don't want your business, find the one that does. Given time and a exclusive supply of successful games, they'll grow into a bigger fish that can help feed your team.

The portals are engaging in a kneejerk reaction to changing business models. In the long run, do they really think they can keep customer data away from developers when the games that players want are online services? Such companies just end up being a roadbump in the way of progress. A portal that gets irritable about giving up customer data guarantees that their cut of the pie is zero. This is their loss, not yours.

take care


  1. I was discussing this with my collegue, we're putting out a casual game in the very near future.

    Your points are really good if you're doing something that is a browser-client, multiplayer kind of thing, because you get all kinds of metrics all the time, it's a singular game/brand, and you can monetize however the design is suited. For people making casual games as products though, you're screwed, they wouldn't give you customer information if let them keep all the revenue.

    So my take-away is "make really lite, webby, browser-embedded, multiplayer stuff that you can monetize with microtransactions" which is great, but most people making casual games have no deliverance because they're working on download products.

    Though I guess that's what you get for compromising your artistic integrity and not just making something totally indie.

  2. I think you are drawing an artificial distinction between the two, and missing the middle-ground - online aware downloaded clients.

    For a living I make downloadable software that communicates internally with web-servers via web-services or other mechanisms. Building this type of technology is not particularly difficult (especially if you are using a modern framework like .Net, but even in regular C++ there are web-service libraries available), and gives you control over the level of online-connectivity you implement. It may start with a simple posting of online scores, but it can then evolve to the full set of metrics and community-integration and in-game micro payments.

    This has nothing to do with compromising artistic integrity however. Whether you attempt to monetise your products or not is unrelated to the obvious benefits to building online-aware games. If for no other reason that it allows you to find things out like who plays your game, how long they play for, what aspects of the game they spend the most time on, etc. These metrics can then be fed into your next game, allowing you to improve as a developer directly from accurately measured feedback, and returned back to the people who enjoy your work.

    Building a community is an end in itself, regardless of the financial implications.

  3. Nice article but how can you really use a portal to get customers if they are not really giving that kind of information ?

    They take half the chunk of your money and don't give you any info about their customers, so developers only really have the solution of releasing your product by yourself. If you go this route then it's going to take quite some time (years) to attract customers to your products.

    Also you must have in mind that there are some products that ONLY sell through portals because they are well tailored to portals. I couldn't imagine a hidden object game, or puzzle game selling well outside a portal.

  4. First of all, Danc, Just want to say thanks for writing this blog. I've been reading for a few years now.

    Second, while I question the promise of traditional casual games, I think the idea of applying game design to non-game experiences is where the big opportunity lies. And in a way that's the future of design, at least on the web:

  5. Very cool site. I've read you comment about you having too many projects to take on any more so the question is, where should we go to find an artist of your calibre to work on some game graphics ?