Casual Games: On the Road Edition
I am sitting in the airport on my way from from the Casual Connect conference in Seattle. The conference was great, and I learned an awful lot. The first thing is these things they call casual games are the same things we called console when I got into the business. The second happened when I was on my way to dinner. I was walking and a woman yelled from behind and started pointing frantically at my heel.
"SIR, SIR, SIR" I slowed down and looked at my heel. This gave her enough time to catch up."Give me 5 dollars. I am homeless and live in a garage and its hard and I want to buy a number 4 value meal at Jack in the Box. Do you know how hard it is to be homeless?"
"It is really hard. I have 10 blankets and sleep in a garage and its cold." We kept walking and she was speaking very clearly and very loud. "Now, give me five dollars because I am going to buy a number 4 value meal at Jack in the Box and I will use the money for that. "I reached into my wallet and gave her 10.
I can't even imagine how much it sucks to be homeless and the city of Seattle seems to have a lot systems in place to make sure they don't sleep in benches or pester people. This woman circumvented the system and devised a pitch. There may be more work involved for the person who plays music with the open guitar case, and we are now blind to the person with the cardboard sign at the intersection. This was a unique, directed pitch. The same type of pitch which leads to a successful game in a casual game distribution channel.
Nolan Bushnell knew this when he devised the home screen for Pong. We take these things for granted, but at the time, there was no arcade machine dial tone. He set up a series of screens emulating his experience as a carnival barker on the midway. The first screen gives you the instructions for the game, the second a sample of the game, the third asks for the quarter. If you think about it, it is no different than the guy offering you 3 balls for a quarter. The woman on the street did the same thing.
On a crowded street and with many other people asking for money she had to get my attention. Her position is no different than a new game in a portal. By pointing to my shoe it was familiar but unexpected. Did I drop something? Did I walk through dog shit? - the art, the name the license. She seized the opportunity created by my looking at her and break in walking pace to engage me - the trial period. She told me she wanted 5 dollars - the ask, too few people in any line of business know to be specific with the ask. Then she told me what I was going to get for the money. Sure she was getting the meal, but she was selling me the satisfaction of providing the meal, and receiving an assurance the money was not going to drugs or alcohol. Finally, the close. She asked the question she knew the answer to. Of course I don't know how hard it is to live on the street, but once the concept is suggested, how can I walk away.
Sitting on a panel with John Welch of Gamefirst I heard him say there are a huge pile of semi discernible games being released into the casual market. I know this from personal experience because when I look at Miniclip.com I feel like my head will explode. I like to say games into the casual market instead of casual games, because the games they are making are actually the same thing many of us did but we called them console games. The lady on the street could teach them a lot about marketing. I wish there was a way to get royalties to her.