January 7th, 2009

A few weeks back a piece of mine on the success of casual/social games during the recession ran in The Economist. Of course, for space reasons, sometimes print articles get cut down, leaving yours truly with a lots more info on the subject than what actually made it into the paper. For example, I interviewed social gaming expert (and now full-time Zynga employee) Bret Terrilll, whose insight unfortunately ended up in the scrap bin. No worries, Bret! Below is an abbreviated transcript of our interview, for those interested in the intersection of the economy and gaming:

How did you first get into the field of social gaming?

My background is in making an MMO for Facebook. That didn’t work, but I saw an opportunity with that social platform. In April of 2008 I started blogging about social gaming. Now I do consulting. [See update above.]

Why is it you think social games will have an edge over casual ones during the recession?

Traditionally casual games have been downloadable, priced around $20. Social games are completely free at this point. They’re crossing into all types of games, encompassing a lot. Free is going to work in a down economy better than paid. That’s just “duh.” Casual games aren’t moving into the market fast enough. They’re headed toward free, but it’s tough for them to give up that initial revenue.

What about Popcap? They claim to be doing well?

I think the trend over the new few years, because of the credit crisis, will be that these users discover free games rather than paid downloadables. Popcap is like Blizzard. They’re going to do well no matter what, because they are the category leader. They’re going to be the last people who are hurt by this.

Do you believe the hype that games are tanking due to the economy?

Games in general are going to do well right now. Like everyone is saying, it’s cheaper to play a game than it is to go out to eat. That’s not going to change any time soon. However we are going to see a progression toward less and less expensive games because of the hard times. The large studio lay-offs were supposedly due to IP stagnation, not the economy. Boring games have nothing to do with an economic condition. It’s that things that were problems already get pushed to the top.

What about the console market? How will those games be effected?

People may start buying used console games instead of new ones. This weekend I went to Gamestop. I didn’t buy the new $60 game. I bought a game that came out two years ago for $12. Besides, hardcore gamers are casual gamers who just don’t know it – or we don’t know it.

Tags: casual games, my articles

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