Parts of this article (those related to a lot of stats and references to the state of the industry are incredibly out of date and use sources many years old) need to be updated.September 2015)(
A casual game is a video game targeted at or used by casual gamers. Casual games may exhibit any type of gameplay or genre. They are typically distinguished by simple rules and by reduced demands on time and learned skill, in contrast to more complex hardcore games. They typically impose low production and distribution costs on the producer.
Casual games are often played on a personal computer online in web browsers, but are also popular on game consoles and mobile phones. Casual gamers are typically older than traditional computer gamers, and more often female, with over 74% of casual gamers being female as of 2007.
Most casual games have similar basic features:
- Simple gameplay, like a puzzle game that can be played entirely using a one-button mouse or cellphone keypad
- Familiarity, like a card game or board game
- Allowing gameplay in short bursts, during work breaks or, in the case of portable and cell phone games, on public transportation
- The ability to quickly reach a final stage, or continuous play with no need to save the game
- Some variant on a "try before you buy" business model or an advertising-based model
If sold at retail, casual games may have low prices to encourage impulse purchases, with colorful packaging and point of purchase sales displays. Others are free online or free to download and try (but may provide a revenue by in-game advertising). Commercial studios create downloadable games, primarily available on the PC. These games are typically addictive and are limited trials to encourage casual gamers to buy a permanent "deluxe" version for a small price (typically $20 or less). Recently, 100% free "full licensed versions" of casual games have become available through advertising.
Independent "indie" game developers often create free games for online play. These games have a wide range of gameplay styles, can be played on almost any computer, and have often been written to be played from within a web browser, using Flash or Shockwave. Their action, graphics and sound are often limited in contrast to downloadable titles, but can display advanced features such as 3D capabilities and multiplayer modes.
Chris Kohler considers Namco's arcade game Pac-Man (1980), which debuted during the golden age of video arcade games, to be the first "casual game". It is estimated to have been played more than ten billion times during the 20th century, making it the highest-grossing video game of all time.
Microsoft's Solitaire (1990), which came free with Microsoft Windows, is widely considered the first successful "casual game" on a computer, with more than 400 million people having played the game since its inception. Subsequent versions of Windows included Minesweeper, and once Microsoft discovered the popularity of Solitaire, the company added FreeCell and Spider Solitaire. The company advertised its very popular Microsoft Entertainment Packs for casual gaming on office computers. Other casual games of the era included Sierra On-Line's Hoyle's Official Book of Games and Crazy Nick's Software Picks, Villa Crespo's The Coffee Break Series, and Epyx's Chip's Challenge.
Casual games moved online in 1996 with the debut of sites such as Gamesville and Uproar which offered multiplayer, HTML-based games in genres such as bingo, cards, puzzles, and trivia. These games required a constant server connection to keep players in sync, and did not include chat or avatars.
The advent of Flash created a boom in web-based games, encouraging designers to create simple games that could be played to completion in one short sitting. One of the most prominent casual games, Bejeweled, started out as a Flash game. Flash games commonly use per-user LSO files as a mean of saving game states.
Casual games received another boost when cell phones with large color displays became the norm because, like Adobe Flash before them, the cell phones had limited capabilities ideally suited to short, simple games.
The arrival of the iPod in the casual gaming market made more powerful games widely available in a portable format. PopCap Games provided Peggle on Apple's music player and it was an instant success.
Casual games have remained popular with users of consoles such as Nintendo's Wii. The simplicity of the Wii controller interface has opened up the gaming market to an untapped demographic who were unwilling to invest the time in learning or intimidated by the typical gamepad input device. This opportunity has seen a number of publishers attempt to design games that appeal to the relatively low skill level of these new players. 2006 saw a growing market of console-based casual games, such as Carnival Games and Wii Play. The precursor to this previously unnamed market trend can be seen in games like Crazy Frog Racer, Shrek: Super Party, Spice World, Buzz!: The Music Quiz, and Singstar.
In 2008, social network games began gaining mainstream popularity following the release of Happy Farm in China. Influenced by the Japanese RPG series Story of Seasons, Happy Farm attracted 23 million daily active users in China. It soon inspired many clones such as Sunshine Farm, Happy Farmer, Happy Fishpond, Happy Pig Farm, and Facebook games such as FarmVille, Farm Town, Country Story, Barn Buddy, Sunshine Ranch, Happy Harvest, Jungle Extreme, and Farm Villain. The most popular social network game is FarmVille, which has over 70 million active users worldwide. Other popular social network games include YoVille, Mob Wars, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille.
There is no precise classification of casual genres in the modern gaming industry. According to Big Fish Games, one of the leading casual game developers and distributors, and Gamezebo, one of the most popular casual game review sites, there are seven popular genres in casual games:
- Puzzle games: Bejeweled series, Collapse! series, Luxor series,...
- Hidden object games: Mystery Case Files series, Mortimer Beckett series, Hidden Expedition series,...
- Adventure games: Dream Chronicles series, Aveyond series, Nancy Drew series,...
- Strategy games (including time management): Diner Dash series, Delicious series, Cake Mania series,...
- Arcade & action games: Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle series, Feeding Frenzy series,...
- Word & trivia games: Bookworm, Bookworm Adventures series, Bonnie's Bookstore,...
- Card & board games: Slingo Quest, Lottso! Deluxe, Luxor Mahjong,...
The Internet is the primary distribution channel for casual games. On PCs, games are typically available in free, feature-limited online versions (coded using platforms such as Flash or, in the past, Java), and standalone downloadable versions (sometimes promoted with the subtitle "Deluxe"), which contain additional features and modes, and higher-quality graphics and sounds than the web version. A trialware version is typically offered, which can be unlocked to activate the full game after purchase.
The mass adoption of touchscreen mobile platforms such as smartphones, and in particular, Apple's iPhone line following the introduction of the App Store, created a significant market for casual games as apps on mobile devices. The most common business model for mobile games is the "freemium" model, where game is free to play, but encourages users to use microtransactions to purchase access in-game features such as power-ups (whose use may be encouraged by steadily increasing difficulty) and other virtual goods.
- Social network game; a casual game with social network integration
- Browser game; a game that is played using a web browser
- Minigame; a short video game contained within another video game
- Indie game; a game produced by individual or small team without publisher support
- Game development and Independent video game development
- Gamezebo and Jay is Games; casual game review websites
- Hardcore game
- Gamer dedication spectrum
- Boyes, Emma (Feb 18, 2008). "GDC '08: Are casual games the future?". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
- Govan, Paul (2008-01-23). "Older Family Gaming Market". Game People. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- Tams, Jessica. Gamer Demographics, Emarketer, April 13, 2007, Accessed May 3, 2008
- Wolverton, Troy (2007-08-23). "Women driving 'casual game' boom". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
- "Casual Games Market Report 2007". Casual Games Association. 2007-10-29. Archived from the original on 2008-01-21.
- "Welcome To Gaming Lite". Computer Gaming World. September 1992. p. 74. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- "Casual Gamers Need Shorter Games - A Study". Game People. 2007-10-29.
- Boyes, Emma, GDC '08: Are casual games the future? Archived July 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, GameSpot, Feb 18, 2008, Accessed May 3, 2008
- Kohler, Chris (May 21, 2010). "Q&A: Pac-Man Creator Reflects on 30 Years of Dot-Eating". Wired. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, ABC-CLIO, p. 73, ISBN 0-313-33868-X, retrieved April 10, 2011,
It would go on to become arguably the most famous video game of all time, with the arcade game alone taking in more than a billion dollars, and one study estimated that it had been played more than 10 billion times during the twentieth century.
- Chris Morris (May 10, 2005). "Pac Man turns 25: A pizza dinner yields a cultural phenomenon – and millions of dollars in quarters". CNN. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
In the late 1990s, Twin Galaxies, which tracks video game world record scores, visited used game auctions and counted how many times the average Pac Man machine had been played. Based on those findings and the total number of machines that were manufactured, the organization said it believed the game had been played more than 10 billion times in the 20th century.
- Steve L. Kent (2001), The ultimate history of video games: from Pong to Pokémon and beyond : the story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world, Prima, p. 143, ISBN 0-7615-3643-4, retrieved May 1, 2011,
Despite the success of his game, Iwatani never received much attention. Rumors emerged that the unknown creator of Pac-Man had left the industry when he received only a $3500 bonus for creating the highest-grossing video game of all time.
- "Tetris' Maker Has His "A" Game". 23 November 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- "Casual Gaming Worth $2.25 Billion, and Growing Fast". 29 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- "iPod Breaks Into Casual Gaming". Game People. 10 March 2003. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
- Kohler, Chris (December 24, 2009). "14. Happy Farm (2008)". The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade. Wired. p. 2. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- "China's growing addiction: online farming games |". Techgearx.com. 2009-10-29. Archived from the original on 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- Nutt, Christian (October 11, 2009). "GDC China: Chinese Indie Game Trends and Opportunities". Gamasutra. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Kohler, Chris (May 19, 2010). "Farm Wars: How Facebook Games Harvest Big Bucks". Wired. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- "外媒關注開心農場：中國擁有最多「在線農民」 - 大洋新聞". Game.dayoo.com. Archived from the original on 2010-10-13. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- "China's Social Gaming Landscape: What's Coming Next". Readwriteweb.com. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- Elliott Ng (2009-10-29). "China's growing addiction: online farming games". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- "Facebook》到開心農場歡呼收割". China Times. 2009-09-01. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2011. (Translation)
- Big Fish Games (2002-03-01). "Casual Game Genres on Big Fish Games". Big Fish Games. Retrieved 2002-03-01.
- Gamezebo staff (2006-03-01). "Casual Game Genres on Gamezebo". Gamezebo. Retrieved 2006-03-01.
- ""If we look at casual games in 2015 what's out there is mostly crap"". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
- Lejacq, Yannick (December 13, 2012). "Freemium Games Make Up 80% Of $10B Mobile App Market In 2012: Flurry Report". The International Business Times. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- Gill, Bobby (December 14, 2012). "'Freemium' Games Pave the Way to Riches for App Developers". Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- LeJacq, Yannick (September 15, 2012). "Something For Nothing: How The Videogame Industry Is Adapting To A 'Freemium' World". The International Business Times. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- "Candy Crush Saga: Why you play and why you pay". Financial Post. 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2018-06-03.