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Mobile Game Development News

New video game niche: Casual play

PARIS The mythic keyboard warrior is usually portrayed as a gangly teenage boy hypnotized in the moonlight before a computer screen flickering with assorted night elves, dwarves and the forsaken undead.

But now hard-core gamers are facing interlopers in their traditional computer realm. Increasingly, the gaming industry is pursuing so-called casual, or coffee-break, gamers who indulge in short-term play, and not necessarily of the action-packed genre.

Vivendi, the French media company that owns the wildly popular online multiplayer game "World of Warcraft," gave a few broad hints about its game development plans last week during an earnings conference in Paris, where executives were tallying up the company's bounty from the sector. The numbers reveal why there is keen interest: First-half revenue of its game unit rose 24 percent from a year earlier to ?296 million, or $376 million, mostly from "World of Warcraft."

"We are developing sophisticated games that can be played for brief periods of time," said Jean-Bernard L?vy, chief executive of Vivendi, which owns Vivendi Games. "This I can assure to those of you who are concerned about consumers who play a long time."

For 2007, that means the scheduled introduction of decidedly unlethal-sounding computer games like "Tic Tac Toe," "Larry's Adventures: Love Boat," "Red Baron," "Incredible Machine" and "Battlestar Galactica."

Casual video games are generally easy to master and demand less time to complete than multiplayer online games. That is in contrast to "World of Warcraft," which has no definitive end, leading sometimes to obsessive players needing therapy to wean themselves from the world of Azeroth, the Earth-like planet that is central to the game.

Popular casual games include puzzles, solitaire and mah-jongg or Pogo.com, which Electronic Arts, the largest game developer, is making available online in North America. It also is developing a beta version in China that it plans to bring to Europe. Pogo.com has attracted more than 1.2 million subscribers online, mainly women over 35 years old, according to Tiffany Steckler, a spokeswoman for the company, based in California.

Park Associates, a market research company, issued a report recently that contended that the industry was overlooking a vast middle market that included "leisure gamers," who are defined as spending 58 hours on average each month playing casual titles, and "dormant gamers," who love playing video games but are distracted from doing so by family, work or school.

The potential has attracted new entrants into the business. John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, a cable television company based in Denver, started dabbling in the field late last year with the $195 million purchase of a 51 percent stake in a casual game maker, Fun Technologies. Since then, Fun Technologies, based in Toronto, has made some acquisitions of its own, like the purchase of Teagames, a British casual games developer that creates online games like "Pitch 'n' Putt Golf" and "Alpine Freestyle."

Two leading German media companies, Georg von Holtzbrinck and Hubert Burda, are also stakeholders in "GameDuell," which allows registered users to play against each other in mah- jongg and backgammon tournaments for money and prizes.

In August, the company laid out artificial grass turf and canvas deck chairs at its stand at a games convention in Eastern Germany to attract the middle-aged players who make up more than a third of the registered users of "GameDuell."

To develop the casual player genre online, companies must begin inventing a range of new games, according to Ren? P?nisson, chairman of Vivendi Games, whose second-biggest seller in the first half, after "World of Warcraft," was a casual game offering, "Ice Age2."

The new offerings, P?nisson said, must deliver one overriding quality: brevity. "These are games capable of being played online or on a mobile phone on a train for 15 minutes, a half-hour or an hour," he said.

PARIS The mythic keyboard warrior is usually portrayed as a gangly teenage boy hypnotized in the moonlight before a computer screen flickering with assorted night elves, dwarves and the forsaken undead.

But now hard-core gamers are facing interlopers in their traditional computer realm. Increasingly, the gaming industry is pursuing so-called casual, or coffee-break, gamers who indulge in short-term play, and not necessarily of the action-packed genre.

Vivendi, the French media company that owns the wildly popular online multiplayer game "World of Warcraft," gave a few broad hints about its game development plans last week during an earnings conference in Paris, where executives were tallying up the company's bounty from the sector. The numbers reveal why there is keen interest: First-half revenue of its game unit rose 24 percent from a year earlier to ?296 million, or $376 million, mostly from "World of Warcraft."

"We are developing sophisticated games that can be played for brief periods of time," said Jean-Bernard L?vy, chief executive of Vivendi, which owns Vivendi Games. "This I can assure to those of you who are concerned about consumers who play a long time."

For 2007, that means the scheduled introduction of decidedly unlethal-sounding computer games like "Tic Tac Toe," "Larry's Adventures: Love Boat," "Red Baron," "Incredible Machine" and "Battlestar Galactica."

Casual video games are generally easy to master and demand less time to complete than multiplayer online games. That is in contrast to "World of Warcraft," which has no definitive end, leading sometimes to obsessive players needing therapy to wean themselves from the world of Azeroth, the Earth-like planet that is central to the game.

Popular casual games include puzzles, solitaire and mah-jongg or Pogo.com, which Electronic Arts, the largest game developer, is making available online in North America. It also is developing a beta version in China that it plans to bring to Europe. Pogo.com has attracted more than 1.2 million subscribers online, mainly women over 35 years old, according to Tiffany Steckler, a spokeswoman for the company, based in California.

Park Associates, a market research company, issued a report recently that contended that the industry was overlooking a vast middle market that included "leisure gamers," who are defined as spending 58 hours on average each month playing casual titles, and "dormant gamers," who love playing video games but are distracted from doing so by family, work or school.

The potential has attracted new entrants into the business. John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, a cable television company based in Denver, started dabbling in the field late last year with the $195 million purchase of a 51 percent stake in a casual game maker, Fun Technologies.

Since then, Fun Technologies, based in Toronto, has made some acquisitions of its own, like the purchase of Teagames, a British casual games developer that creates online games like "Pitch 'n' Putt Golf" and "Alpine Freestyle."

Two leading German media companies, Georg von Holtzbrinck and Hubert Burda, are also stakeholders in "GameDuell," which allows registered users to play against each other in mah- jongg and backgammon tournaments for money and prizes.

In August, the company laid out artificial grass turf and canvas deck chairs at its stand at a games convention in Eastern Germany to attract the middle-aged players who make up more than a third of the registered users of "GameDuell."

To develop the casual player genre online, companies must begin inventing a range of new games, according to Ren? P?nisson, chairman of Vivendi Games, whose second-biggest seller in the first half, after "World of Warcraft," was a casual game offering, "Ice Age2."

The new offerings, P?nisson said, must deliver one overriding quality: brevity. "These are games capable of being played online or on a mobile phone on a train for 15 minutes, a half-hour or an hour," he said.

PARIS The mythic keyboard warrior is usually portrayed as a gangly teenage boy hypnotized in the moonlight before a computer screen flickering with assorted night elves, dwarves and the forsaken undead.

But now hard-core gamers are facing interlopers in their traditional computer realm. Increasingly, the gaming industry is pursuing so-called casual, or coffee-break, gamers who indulge in short-term play, and not necessarily of the action-packed genre.

Vivendi, the French media company that owns the wildly popular online multiplayer game "World of Warcraft," gave a few broad hints about its game development plans last week during an earnings conference in Paris, where executives were tallying up the company's bounty from the sector. The numbers reveal why there is keen interest: First-half revenue of its game unit rose 24 percent from a year earlier to ?296 million, or $376 million, mostly from "World of Warcraft."

"We are developing sophisticated games that can be played for brief periods of time," said Jean-Bernard L?vy, chief executive of Vivendi, which owns Vivendi Games. "This I can assure to those of you who are concerned about consumers who play a long time."

For 2007, that means the scheduled introduction of decidedly unlethal-sounding computer games like "Tic Tac Toe," "Larry's Adventures: Love Boat," "Red Baron," "Incredible Machine" and "Battlestar Galactica."

Casual video games are generally easy to master and demand less time to complete than multiplayer online games. That is in contrast to "World of Warcraft," which has no definitive end, leading sometimes to obsessive players needing therapy to wean themselves from the world of Azeroth, the Earth-like planet that is central to the game.

Popular casual games include puzzles, solitaire and mah-jongg or Pogo.com, which Electronic Arts, the largest game developer, is making available online in North America. It also is developing a beta version in China that it plans to bring to Europe. Pogo.com has attracted more than 1.2 million subscribers online, mainly women over 35 years old, according to Tiffany Steckler, a spokeswoman for the company, based in California.

Park Associates, a market research company, issued a report recently that contended that the industry was overlooking a vast middle market that included "leisure gamers," who are defined as spending 58 hours on average each month playing casual titles, and "dormant gamers," who love playing video games but are distracted from doing so by family, work or school.

The potential has attracted new entrants into the business. John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, a cable television company based in Denver, started dabbling in the field late last year with the $195 million purchase of a 51 percent stake in a casual game maker, Fun Technologies.

Since then, Fun Technologies, based in Toronto, has made some acquisitions of its own, like the purchase of Teagames, a British casual games developer that creates online games like "Pitch 'n' Putt Golf" and "Alpine Freestyle."

Two leading German media companies, Georg von Holtzbrinck and Hubert Burda, are also stakeholders in "GameDuell," which allows registered users to play against each other in mah- jongg and backgammon tournaments for money and prizes.

In August, the company laid out artificial grass turf and canvas deck chairs at its stand at a games convention in Eastern Germany to attract the middle-aged players who make up more than a third of the registered users of "GameDuell."

To develop the casual player genre online, companies must begin inventing a range of new games, according to Ren? P?nisson, chairman of Vivendi Games, whose second-biggest seller in the first half, after "World of Warcraft," was a casual game offering, "Ice Age2."

The new offerings, P?nisson said, must deliver one overriding quality: brevity. "These are games capable of being played online or on a mobile phone on a train for 15 minutes, a half-hour or an hour," he said.

PARIS The mythic keyboard warrior is usually portrayed as a gangly teenage boy hypnotized in the moonlight before a computer screen flickering with assorted night elves, dwarves and the forsaken undead.

But now hard-core gamers are facing interlopers in their traditional computer realm. Increasingly, the gaming industry is pursuing so-called casual, or coffee-break, gamers who indulge in short-term play, and not necessarily of the action-packed genre.

Vivendi, the French media company that owns the wildly popular online multiplayer game "World of Warcraft," gave a few broad hints about its game development plans last week during an earnings conference in Paris, where executives were tallying up the company's bounty from the sector. The numbers reveal why there is keen interest: First-half revenue of its game unit rose 24 percent from a year earlier to ?296 million, or $376 million, mostly from "World of Warcraft."

"We are developing sophisticated games that can be played for brief periods of time," said Jean-Bernard L?vy, chief executive of Vivendi, which owns Vivendi Games. "This I can assure to those of you who are concerned about consumers who play a long time."

For 2007, that means the scheduled introduction of decidedly unlethal-sounding computer games like "Tic Tac Toe," "Larry's Adventures: Love Boat," "Red Baron," "Incredible Machine" and "Battlestar Galactica."

Casual video games are generally easy to master and demand less time to complete than multiplayer online games. That is in contrast to "World of Warcraft," which has no definitive end, leading sometimes to obsessive players needing therapy to wean themselves from the world of Azeroth, the Earth-like planet that is central to the game.

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