Casual games aren’t just for the “casual gamer” anymore.
And it’s difficult to ignore when classic titles like Bomberman, Mega Man and Frogger have re-entered the stage with help from the Apple iPhone; they’ve exploded, blasted, and even hopped straight onto the palm of your hand. It’s like your childhood all over again, save for the blowing of the cartridge and angry hurls of the controller. And as this resurgence continues, one can’t help but wonder: why are more and more publishers beginning to create a large presence in the casual games department?
Enter Jon Kromrey, the General Manager of the Apple division at Namco Networks. Prior to his position at this company, he has worked at Apple, Eidos Interactive, iPlay, Namco Hometek, and several other companies — his roles primarily engaged in productions. Namco Networks has been releasing many of their own arcade games, with Dig Dug, Galaga and even Ms. Pac-Man wakka-wakka-wakkaing onto the touch screen.
“It’s popular and it appeals to carriers,” answers Kromrey. But he doesn’t simply aim to resurrect old favorites in hopes of hitting an established audience. Namco Networks has plans for “brand new things” and games that are “newly licensed.” Many of the employees at Namco Networks have history at Apple and EA, further adding quality to casual games that are sometimes ridiculed by a more core audience. Professionals with experience at console publishers aren’t afraid to get their feet wet in the casual market. Why is this?
Because the casual market is rapidly growing. Because creating an iPhone application is significantly less expensive and is sometimes more effective than creating a full-scale console game. And most importantly — because more than 21 million people own an iPhone.
“It’s like watching the stock market. You move when the market moves,” says Kromrey. He has mentioned once before that Apple’s mobile platform represents a “gold rush” that can’t be missed. Several thousand iPhone apps are submitted every week. The sales channels are open and it’s time to supply the demand, especially when almost everyone is willing to play.
Mr. Kromrey was kind enough to reveal a new game being released on the iPhone. Worst Case Scenario is an iPhone game that takes after the book of the same title. Players will be put into a tough situation (for example, being encountered by a mountain lion), and will then be given choices of what action to take. You gain points depending on how rational your choices are. The game is essentially a much more interactive version of the book, and would appeal not only to fans of the already-established brand, but also to those who are fans of Darwinism. Casual? Yes. Exclusively for “casual” gamers? Not at all.
Unfortunately, I had a very limited amount of time with the game (I’m talking about close to 2-3 minutes), and am unable to give you my full-fledged take on it. In fact, I can’t even give you a screen shot. However, if you’d like to learn more about it, it seems that the game is already a part of Namco Networks’ mobile division.
Lastly, to answer a reader’s question — yes, Kromrey is well aware that Soulcalibur > Tekken. This is because Kromrey had actually worked on the game. He provided no official comment on such games appearing on the iPhone, but he did mention that there are many problems that arise when trying to develop those titles. On a flat touch screen, it’s difficult to get the perfect controls, and even more difficult to do a move that requires a quick movement. He was kind enough to throw us a bone, however, claiming, “I think it’s just a matter of time.”
While some gamers are adamant on playing only the action-packed, smoothest-looking, million-dollar budget games with no less than a hundred billion pixels per frame, casual games appear to be taking it back to the basics. And when iPhone apps and PC downloads are available at a fraction of the cost — what’s there to argue?