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Keeping the Promise of Casual Games: Entertainment for Everyone. John Welch CEO, PlayFirst Casual Games Summit @ Game Developers Conference 08 February 2008. about me. Degrees in Math & C.S. Career in product management SEGA (SegaSoft Networks): 1998-1999 Shockwave.com: 1999-2004

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keeping the promise of casual games entertainment for everyone

Keeping the Promise of Casual Games: Entertainment for Everyone

John Welch

CEO, PlayFirst

Casual Games Summit @ Game Developers Conference

08 February 2008

about me
about me
  • Degrees in Math & C.S.
  • Career in product management
  • SEGA (SegaSoft Networks): 1998-1999
  • Shockwave.com: 1999-2004
  • PlayFirst: 2004-present
  • Almost 10 years in casual games
casual means accessible
casual means accessible

Is the game accessible to a “significant number” of people?

  • attractive theme?
  • friendly to new / occasional users?
  • fun enough to do again / bring friend in?
casual means accessible1
casual means accessible

Is the platform accessible to ‘everyone’?

Physically: Do most people want to buy it? Can they find it in a store/online?

Socially: Do most people want to play it, tell their friends about it?

Mentally: Do most people feel comfortable, or are many intimidated?

Behaviorally: Do most people have time for this?

is mobile casual
is mobile casual?

Everyone has one

Even buy-1-get-3-free support games

Conservative view today:

  • Neither is yet ‘casual’
  • because everyday folks don’t download games on their mobile phone

Future:

  • Everyone has one everywhere all the time…
  • and uses it for apps & games
  • doesn’t get more accessible than that
are consoles casual
are consoles casual?

Grandparents are playing Wii Sports with their grandchildren.

Conservative view today:

  • Exceptions, not rule
  • Only kids buy/play console games
  • Consoles not emotionally available to adults

Future:

  • Entire family accesses interactive media via some box connected to the television
pc most casual most hard core
pc: most casual + most hard core

“the internet” ~= “America”

Reality today:

  • 76%of American’s have PCs
  • 238 million U.S. Internet users
  • Most exceed casual MSR’s
  • Most play casual games
  • And then there’s WoW on a $6500 Dell XPS 720

$349

$6,496

all people read watch listen
all people read, watch, listen
  • to diverse genres of media
  • on diverse ‘platforms’
  • are games really different?
a neat idea
a neat idea
  • “Games” have always been for everyone.
    • But “video games” never were.
  • Let’s make video games a universal form of entertainment!!!
    • This sort of just started happening in the late 1990’s w/ Pogo, Shockwave, Yahoo, etc.
    • We put a label on it: “casual games”
  • 5 years ago “we” all fit in one room
vision
vision

Elevate video games to become a first-tier form of entertainment enjoyed by everyone

we are making progress
we are making progress
  • Our customers truly are ‘everyone’
    • 28% of the total worldwide online population are “gamers”

[Comscore - May, 2007]

  • Gaming is the #1 activity (length of time) on the personal computer
    • 34% of all adult Internet users play games weekly

[Parks Associates - 2007]

  • Even game development teams are becoming more diverse
    • 26% of PlayFirst game production staff is female

[I counted]

good money here
good money here

$12 Billion Market

N.A. Game Software:

6% growth (ESA)

  • $10 Billion Market
  • w/ 35% growth rate
  • $5 Billion Market

CGA: 20% growth

are we done creatively
Are we done CREATIVELY?
  • done inventing genres?
  • only for nerds?
are we done categorically
Are we done CATEGORICALLY?
  • Demand ($$$) has always been on the console
  • Supply coming from two directions
  • Are we getting squeezed out? Maybe our turn is simply over!?
we are the future
we are the future!

Retail publishers + platforms  great at serving core audience

  • Don’t get the web  will make mistakes we already made
  • Budgets, schedules, thinking are all wrong  can’t do it small
slide27

how long do we have?

…even though this is a tech-savvy part of the country… I guarantee you that we don’t have 50% penetration into the Bay Area homes with video game consoles…

… they’re too hard, they’re too expensive and they’re too intimidating, I’ve never played with a controller, the game comes up and I have no idea what I’m doing …

Everyone loves playing games. I don’t care who you are. Yet we put a barrier in this industry (for) people who didn’t grow up … with a controller in their hand.

Peter Moore, president of EA Sports, San Francisco Chronicle Jan 2008

what a few smart people can do
what a few smart people can do
  • Dwarf best console innovations like Dance Dance, Guitar Hero, Wii Sports
  • All created by a few founders who are now really wealthy
  • Internet = platform where YOU can innovate w/out permission
    • where YOU have advantages over the big players.
slide30

not good enough

2007 Highlights

  • 6,000 Diner Dash clones
  • 2,000 Mystery Case Files clones
  • Philosophical dilemma over is the “3-in-a-row” dead
  • Real innovators are cloning Club Penguin

What did we do to grow this market???

our customers agree
our customers agree

Customer Poll:

Are you happy with the creativity and innovation in casual games today?

“Absolutely, I find new games all the time”

42%

50%

“Occasionally I’ll find a gem of a game:

No, they all seem the same to me”

8%

Casual gamers want more innovation!

Source: PlayFirst.com survey – warning – not a highly scientific approach!

how about our business model
how about our business model?

Customer Poll:

How do you feel about current purchasing options for casual games?

28%

“I’m happy with the $20 model”

“I want different options,

such as subscription

or pay-per-level:”

71%

The majority of casual gamers want more innovation

some progress here
some progress here
  • PlayFirst:
    • Diner Dash: Hometown Hero
      • Multiplayer, avatars, episodic content
      • Only 1 out of 30 games we published
      • Only 1 portal would launch it (Yahoo!)
    • PlayGold stored currency
  • WildTangent
    • WildCoins ad-friendly micro currency (see next slide)
rationale for lack of innovation
rationale for lack of innovation
  • Portals won’t let us innovate; they only want stand-alone $20 games
  • Our customers are happy; they don’t want anything different.
  • Reality = innovation is difficult
please consider
please consider
  • Portals
    • Differentiate your service.
    • Share the customer.
    • Say ‘yes’ to the innovators. Say ‘no’ to the cloners.
    • Limit participation to allow suppliers to recoup investments.
  • Publishers
    • Take all financial risk: higher budgets, lower royalties
    • Build YOUR brands: story, characters, ongoing content
    • Invest in innovation: “genre filler” OK, copy not OK
  • Developers
    • Be the artist, not the banker.
    • Beware the glut!
when we succeed
when we succeed

‘Casual’ goes away as a category.

We will have delivered on our promise that games are for everyone.