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The unstoppable rise of casual gaming

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Tablets may be getting more sophisticated and powerful, but there are still clear differences between the majority of games sold for Android and iOS and a game you’d buy for a console or PC.

‘Casual’ gaming, simple games for phones, tablets or web browsers, has been on the rise for years – while at the same time console game developers have either seen sales fall or struggle to make ends meet due to high development costs.

Facebook’s latest figures, released earlier this week, show that 250m people played games on Facebook pages every month during 2012 – a rise of 24% compared to the year before. That’s an astonishing rate of growth as the number of people actually signing up for Facebook itself has slowed.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a US body for games developers, believes that ‘Puzzle, Board game, Game Show, Trivia and Card Games’ – casual games, in other words – account for 42% of all games played online, while ‘E’ rated games (suitable for all ages) make up 39.3% of the total US market in games software sold. Casual games, adventure games and role-playing games all top the charts for the types of games sold.

One of the great things about casual gaming over the years is that it has opened gaming up to new players too, who might have been put off in the past. It might surprise you to learn, for example, that in the same ESA report the organisation said that the average age of the US games player is 35, and 47% of players are female – certainly not the image that many non-gamers still have of the hobby.

Interestingly, the report also points out that women over the age of 18 now make up almost one third of the total number of gamers in the US, while teenage boys account for less than a fifth.

It’s for this reason that a Microsoft spokesperson recently told Gamespot that the company believes “women are the new core” audience for video games, and it’s looking at ways to make its games more interesting for a more mixed audience.

If the experience of casual games is anything to go by, that means making games more fun and challenging, and not just dressing them up in pink.

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