Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Casual Connect 2007: Initial Thoughts

Today was day one of the "Casual Connect" conference. Day 2, officially, I guess, since they held a kind of intro/primer track on Monday.

We also held our Microsoft Casual Games partner day on Monday, an invite-only event for developer partners, and that's one of the reasons I haven't been posting much, as I was working on a bunch of the presentations for that event, including one that I gave. They'll be posted publicly at some point in the near future, and I'll post a link at that time.

The energy at Casual Connect is pretty palpable. Interesting mix of perceptions. Existing player both enjoying the 'vindication' of having been there first, but also seeming a little put off by all these people coming to "our show" (sound familiar, GDC old timers?), and perhaps a little nervous tone to some of their voices about all the big players showing up?

And big players there were. Of course Microsoft is there, but so's Google, and Viacom, and lots of analysts and VCs. Suits! At a casual games conference! Did they not get the memo? :-)

I'm going to have to blog some lengthy posts about impressions of the show and some individual sessions later this week. In the meantime, I'll leave you with two points I think are interesting:

  • Among the people at the show, instead of the usual confusion about "what does 'casual' really mean?", there is a lot more agreement, but its falling into several very distinct camps: Casual in the web-or-downloadable-like-you'd-get-from-Popcap sense; Broad-appeal, mostly-retail console titles like Buzz or Big Brain Academy, and the casual-mmo-is-da-bomb-WoW-better-watchout crowd.
  • A lot of conversations about all the new casual divisions at big publishers like Ubi, EA, etc. Personally, I htink this is going to be one of the more entertaining spaces to watch. Not because I think the best games will come from there (they might, they might not), but because I think it's going to be *really* interesting to see whether companies used to the process-heavy, gauntlet-running processes used to prudently conceive/greenlight/produce/market/sell $20M games are going to be able to *internally* adapt to the nimble nature of the casual market. I think it's going to be a painful adaptation for many, I beleive.

Another observation: If you hear someone say they beleive the future is in "MySpace + Facebook + MapleStory + YouTube + HabboHotel", you have just heard someone that has no frikkin clue what they are looking for, apart from something that will magically be worth a billion dollars in two years. Just walk away. If they are a VC, feel free to take their money first, by all means :-)

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