“Tapping” Into The Casual Gaming Market

In an industry where hardcore players dominate online console play with their monstrous gamerscores, it’s hard for a casual player to have their voice heard. Unless you’re devoting hours a day to earning Xbox achievements or PS3 trophies, you’ll be scoffed at by more experienced players. Game developers understand that their main demographic is going to expect hundreds of hours of gameplay out of their titles, and they’re going to create games accordingly.

So where does this leave the casual gamer, who might pick up a controller two or three times a week?

We all know that Nintendo has built an empire out of catering to younger audiences and families, especially with the Wii and games like Wii Fit and Wii Sports, but the iPhone is making a serious run at that on-the-go 18 to 45 market by offering games that are easy and accessible.

In Fast Company‘s Dec 09-Jan 10 issue, they have an interesting interview with Nicole Lazzaro, founder and president of XEODesign, about mobile gaming. Her company designs iPhone games, and created the first title to use  the phone’s accelerometer. Lazzaro points out that hardcore gamers want to be challenged to the point of insanity, but that the iPhone has a completely different market share. Mobile gamers will only play a game for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, but they’ll play in little pieces all week long.

In my opinion, this is the reason that the iPhone is not only the future of portable gaming, but also the future of casual gaming. The main benefit is that gaming is just one of the many features of the phone, and it’s with you constantly, making its gaming interface the perfect time-kill. Plus, there is little to no personal commitment to the games, and they’re still fun. Compared to the new RPG Dragon Age: Origins, which offers players over 100 hours of gameplay, iPhone games can be played in smaller bursts without all the pressure to unlock everything and beat the game before friends.

According to Fast Company, Apples App Store already offers about 20,000 gaming titles, but from what I’ve seen most of these only offer single player action. To really expand their industry share, Apple should work on creating a worldwide gaming network similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live. They already have the network for it, don’t they? That said, be on the lookout for big gaming innovations coming out of the iPhone; with the interactivity of their phone and its inherent accessibility, Apple has the ability to turn many more people on to their games.

If you’re already the proud owner of an iPhone, check out IGN’s iPhone Game Buyer’s Guide.

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