Casual Games=Engaged Players

The Casual Games Association released its 2007 report on the casual games industry this week. According to the release:

– Casual games are a $2.25 billion a year industry.
– The casual game market is growing at 20% a year.
– Over 200 million people play casual games each month over the Internet.
– Men make up 48.3% of casual game players, women 51.7%. However, women account for 74% of paying casual game players.
– Casual gamers who pay for a subscription and/or are community users average 7 – 15 hours of online play a week.
– Heaviest play times are right after dinner from 7pm – 9pm and during lunch from 11am – 2pm.
– The majority of online portals feature catalogs of over 1,000 games and add between 75 to 300 new games to their catalogs each year.
– Casual games are usually played for a short period of time increments, from five minutes to 20 minutes–though it’s common for people to play one game after another for many hours.

The Association further reports that the most popular casual games worldwide are:

– Solitaire (Microsoft Windows XP)
– Tetris (Tetris Holding, LLC)
– Bejeweled (PopCap Games)
– QQ Games Collection (Tencent China)
– Diner Dash Franchise (PlayFirst)
– Mystery Case Files (Big Fish Games)

A number or interesting articles have since appeared about the space. Jane Pinckard had a good industry overview at GigaOm. Despite these space’s diminutive size compared to the gaming enthusiast market (think World of Warcraft and Xbox Live) which takes in more then $20B a year, Pinckard’s analysis confirms that “casual gaming is an area of enormous potential for the gaming industry…if only the industry can avoid some potential pitfalls along the way.”

Meanwhile, Venture Beat writer Chris Morrison addressed some of the future technologies ahead in the space, including users’ ability to embed games on their social network pages, or to upload their own photograph or image into the game, and play the game with that image standing in for their character.

Troy Wolverton at the Mercury News (registration required) had a piece on new business models in the casually gaming industry.

I’ll focus on the advertising opportunities around casual gaming. Like the majority of other forms of “free” content on the net, causal gaming is subsidized by ad support. Much to our surprise, when we first launched SpotXchange a year ago, two of the earliest publishers to sign up were casual gaming networks. At least a dozen additional sites have since joined SpotXchange, carving out a strong niche in a field focused mainly on ad support for in-stream video. Implementations include “pre rolls” to the game starts, as well as “mid rolls” that are offered between game levels or rounds or deals of the cards.

In retrospect, it makes sense: casual gamers are on broadband connections, they are focused on the activity and engaged with the UI. Furthermore, they seem happy with the ad supported model. A Macrovision study conducted earlier this year confirmed that casual gamers themselves express broad support for advertising, finding that “8 in 10 are willing to view an ad in return for free play.”

Since video ads generally earn exponentially higher CPMs than their banner counterparts, it seems appropriate that the game publishers would pursue this newly-available, higher CPM ad unit. Happily, we’ve observed that the niche is likewise a win for advertisers. Casual gaming channels in our network consistently generate strong click thru rates, demonstrating that gamers not only support, but are engaged with the ads. More than one casual gaming channel last month had an overall CTR of greater than 5% for SpotXchange-delivered ads, which is extraordinary.

Breaking the market down further, analysis of our traffic numbers show that whether the games are played online or downloaded and played locally, the ads perform comparably. Gaming sites that require a user to complete a profile sometimes break their SpotXchange channels into male and female audiences. Based on our measurements, the female channels query our network for ads three times as frequently as their male counterparts, suggesting that the male/female split, at least in some channels on our network, is more heavily female skewed than the balance suggested by the Casual Gaming Association’s figures.

If you’re an advertiser interested in this engaged, largely female audience, log into your SpotXchange advertiser account and search the marketplace for casual gaming. You’ll then be able to review all the channels in that category and make your own selections. You’re sure to find an opportunity that meets your needs, and likely to enjoy a strong campaign performance when your ad runs on your selected sites. Alternately, you could target your campaign run-of-site against the gaming category, and it will run against all channels within the casual gaming category.

Explore posts in the same categories: Doug Render, Industry Articles, SpotX for Media Buyers, SpotXers

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