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“Digital Marketing” experts Clickz have a theory – casual games are becoming the dominant form of gameplay and are killing the console market deader than a particularly dead doornail.
The irRegular Game of Life is a weird but fun little game (by irRegular Games) based on mathematician John Horton Conway’s ‘Game of Life’ theory. In this iteration, you are given puzzles to solve and must set the little cells into motion to meet the goals of each level. It’s surprisingly hypnotic at times — after getting past the initial introductory levels, you watch the cells shuffle back and forth, creating a variety of patterns and interacting with each other. There’s also a sandbox mode and some other features; the regular puzzle mode was plenty fun for me.
You know WildTangent? The casual gaming specialists, fronted by former DirectX creator Alex St. John and long-time believer in the “casual games will soon rule the universe” train of thought, just announced that they are killing off their internal development studio, which had only managed to churn out three games in two years. The company’s online casual gaming portal will remain, along with it’s 1000 or so games, but it’ll be staying without boss Alex St. John, who is stepping down from his post. The move was made to cut costs, with the benefits of developing their own games not seen as being as economically viable as simply hosting somebody else’s.
Danc of Lost Garden is back with another prototyping challenge; game designer I am not, but I love these things — especially seeing what people come up with. On the plate this cycle? A fishing game that Danc describes as “Frogger using a polar coordinate system, a frog that insists on drifting to the left and only the ability to move forward”:
This is a fun little remake (more or less) of the puzzle mode of Tetris Attack; you have a limited number of moves to swap blocks and clear the whole board. While the early levels are pretty easy, some of the later stages get pretty complicated — all in all, not a bad little browser-based timewaster to kill some time on a Sunday.
I had an interesting discussion this week on the topic of microtransaction models, East-West interaction, and the fact that few people pay much attention to such issues (or dismiss them out of hand); Games In Motion has a nice interview up illustrating the ‘fly under the radar’ nature of a lot of those microtransaction models. WIM sat down to chat with Rob Goldberg, CEO of GMG Entertainment — the company produces branded pre-paid cards for a couple of franchises, sold at big box stores like Target — to talk about where the market is currently and where it’s headed. They estimate somewhere between $75 and $100 million in sales this year, but what about the future?:
EA casually makes it’s way into Austin, Texas, with the announcement of the opening of a brand new studio formed to create games for Pogo.com. Pogo Austin’s tiny initial team of 12 are tasked with developing family-friendly games based on popular Hasbro properties. Their first game will be Pictureka! Museum Mayhem, due out on Pogo.com in November with a retail release to follow in early winter. “We are thrilled to open a studio in Austin as there is such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable game development community,” said Andrew Pedersen, Pogo General Manager. “It’s great to be a part of that spirit and I feel privileged to be working with a team full of game makers who bring such tremendous talent and experience to the Pogo team.”
The typical method of keeping games in glass cases works like a charm when it comes to reducing theft, but stymies impulse buys — something the game industry is working to change as companies attempt to appeal to ever broader markets. The San Jose Mercury News has a reasonably interesting short piece on what companies are doing in an attempt to broaden their appeal, get games out from behind glass and locks, and encourage people outside the target ‘gamer’ audience to pick up games on a whim. Of course, there’s the problem of dealing with retailers’ wants and needs:
A simple and scaled-down strategy game (it was an entrant in the ‘Java4K competition,’ where entries could not exceed 4096 bytes), FkConflict is still a lot of fun and good to while away a chunk of time that you probably should be doing something else with. The mechanics are pretty simple: pick your territories; territories get turns each round in random order; first player to get all territories on the board wins.
Emily Short has an interesting response up to some comments made by Playfirst’s John Welch in a recent Gamasutra article. The issue at stake? Welch’s assertion that Playfirst has introduced ‘narrative’ to games such as Diner Dash. Short’s response? ‘This made my eyelids twitch.’ What’s the difference between narrative and fiction? Short argues that games like Diner Dash have a fiction attached to them, but are sorely lacking on the narrative bit, which she feels can add something to currently lacking casual games: