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Casually Microsoft

November 29th, 2005, By Duncan Gough

Following on from my response to this post, the 360 launch is clearly, like the entire Microsoft console strategy, geared around sales and the ‘holiday period’.

From a casual games persepective, though, there’s been an uneasy silence around the whole Live Arcade idea. Cleary, having one of my games on there would be incredible, given the number of consoles that are going to sell, the sheer number of eyeballs that each arcade game will get. However, I’m beginning to realise why this uneasy silence exists.

On the Casual Games list, for example, there has been little to no mention of Live Arcade. Given that, if you’re not on the casual games list then you’re clearly not passionate about the idea of them, I’d say that this consitutes a worrying silence. And, of course, I think I know why.

How can you be a casual gamer and own an Xbox 360? With three 3.2Ghz CPU’s? A unit that is designed to fit into your living room, next to or underneath the television. A unit with built in online and multi player networking. A unit that plays DVDs, syncs with iPods and mobile phones, acts as a media hub for your ‘digital lifestyle’. When I think of casual gamers I do not think of Xbox-owning teenagers. The casual games perspective is about people playing at work, on their break, at home for short stints before and after work. Casual games run on computers that are several years old, so they won’t even have heard of multiple cores. Just as importantly, casual games are increasing becoming synonomous with online games, that is, flash games. There is a huge market for downloadable casual games but with the improvements of the Flash player and the hard and fast restriction that downloading and running an application places on your potential customer base mean that browser-based casual games are set to reap the benefits of their no-install issues and simplicity.

But then, Microsoft have all but conceeded the games market but stating that there is little or no more growth left in the number of people who will play a console game. Clearly, it’s time for them to recoup their costs and the 360 is about squeezing the most of out every player (hence the media hub and Live Arcade ideas, lest you stray too far from games aspect of the console).

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