I could have written 40 more column inches on the casual games business, the subject of Monday’s column.
One thing I absolutely should have explained better is the downloads vs. sales statistics, which I flubbed in my characterization of Sandlot’s “Cake Mania” sales. The game was downloaded 40 million times last year, but that doesn’t mean 40 million people paid Sandlot $20 apiece.
The usual model with casual games is to offer free trial versions. About 1 percent or 2 percent of people who download and play the games end up paying for the full version. Some local companies say their conversion rates are higher on good games, maybe approaching 5 percent.
Seattle’s PopCap Games pioneered the downloadable games model with its breakout success, “Bejeweled.” Here’s a PopCap piece we did last year with a little history.
That’s one way casual games companies make money. They also sell ads that support the free versions of their games. Some also sell subscriptions or corporate sponsorships that fund the free plays or even different levels of a game. RealNetworks in particular has been aggressively exploring so-called interstitial ads that appear between game levels. WildTangent has experimented with the mix, adding micropayments, just like the quarters you’d pay to play arcade games.
Casual games also sell well on mobile phones and increasingly on handheld devices and game consoles.
Ben Romano is covering the casual games conference this week. I was going to cover it and would love to be there, but I’m frantically trying to work my way to the next level in “Remodeling Mania.” (I’d give that game two stars — it’s fun for a while, but it gets tedious fast, takes over your life and never seems to end.)