UNITED STATES—The term casual gaming describes a form of video game where players do not need to invest many hours of commitment to learn and perfect its gameplay. Simply put, casual games are pick-up-and-play style titles where gamers can engage infrequently and spontaneously. The spontaneity of casual gaming is made possible through a range of technological advancements. The first casual games of its kind were arcade games where players could put their dimes into the machine and play from the word go.

Even the earliest video game consoles such as the NES Classic weren’t considered a form of casual gaming. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet that a new medium for casual gaming was born thanks to the evolution of Flash in web-based games. Web developers designed and launched simple games that could be finished in one session. It was a layer of engagement and immersivity that even enchanted demographics that weren’t considered traditional gamers. Casual gaming soon became appealing to women of all ages as well as men and teenagers who used to frequent arcades.

Gaming Hardware Makes It Simpler to Play Casually

Of course, once the first mobile devices started to hit the market, the ability to play casual games on the move appealed to millions worldwide. The advancement of smartphone and tablet technology made gamers more accessible than ever before, heightening people’s desire for pick-up-and-play games to pass the time on morning commutes to work or even during a quiet night in on the sofa. Although Flash was the key driver behind the growth of web-based casual games, it was HTML5 technology that cemented mobile gaming as a craze.

The number one benefit of HTML5 is that it provides consistent gaming experiences across multiple gaming platforms. From the desktop PCs and laptops through to smartphones and tablets, HTML5 allows developers to create one exciting casual game that can be played on the most accessible device to everyone. HTML5-powered games enjoy an audience of players spanning all operating systems. Although arguments have lingered suggesting that HTML5 games drain battery life from devices compared with games developed within a native app, casual gaming wouldn’t be half the industry it is today without it.

Freemium Gaming Culture

The “freemium” or free-to-play casual games are still the most popular form of mobile gaming today. Time and again, the freemium casual game model has proven an excellent revenue driver for developers. By designing free-to-play games, it’s an opportunity to get casual gamers hooked before giving them the option to enhance their gaming experience with in-game or in-app purchases for things, such as new levels or weaponry.

Card, puzzle, arcade and word games make up 44 percent of the most played online casual games.
Photo courtesy of Visually.

In some cases, in-game or in-app purchases give casual games an entirely new lease on life. Gamers get to maximize their enjoyment of the free-to-play version before paying a small fee to enjoy new experiences using the skills gained from the free version. Even some of the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), such as EverQuest II and Star Wars: The Old Republic, have moved toward the freemium model in favor of attracting casual gamers as well as their hardcore fans.

The Initial Craze of Casual Gaming

Big brands were alerted to the potential of casual gaming when the initial craze of casual mobile games took hold in the late 2000s. The mobile app marketplace was somewhat timid in 2009, before the arrival of Angry Birds on the scene. This simplistic game, which saw players having to jump to avoid flying angry birds and other obstacles, generated over 2.5 billion mobile downloads worldwide. It became a phenomenon in popular culture; anyone who was anyone was downloading and playing it in their spare time. So popular was the Angry Birds brand that it spawned a new casual game, Angry Birds 2, as well as a motion picture The Angry Birds Movie for the big screen. It was a clear demonstration of the power of casual gaming.

Ever heard of a little game called Candy Crush Saga?

Then there was the Candy Crush Saga hype. This simple game that was modeled closely on the successful PC-based casual game, Bejeweled, topped the iTunes App Store for months on end. Although Candy Crush shot to fame with its freemium version, it too successfully implemented revenue-driving features such as allowing players to pay to unlock the next level. According to VentureBeat, Candy Crush Saga racked up 2.73 billion downloads in five years worldwide and that figure is still climbing.

The Impact of Casual Gaming on iGaming

The explosion of the casual gaming industry has positively impacted the iGaming industry, too. Demand for pick-up-and-play style video slot machine games is as high for any other casual game. And as a result, iGaming developers haven’t had to focus too heavily on developing video slots with in-depth gameplay and bonuses. Instead, it’s more about accessibility and the ability to play without having to learn the ropes.

The Starburst Slot game is a perfect example of a slot that’s ingrained in popular culture thanks to its simplistic arcade style with a high-energy atmosphere. It’s no-frills in its bonuses and jackpots, but its simple gameplay and lack of a narrative to follow help casual gamers to start spinning those reels.

What is the future of casual gaming?

AR and VR are the future of casual gaming, and the future is now.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

For the casual gaming industry to prevail in the next decade, there is a firm belief that the sector must capitalize on its popularity by branching out into new formats, including next-generation technologies. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two of the newest developments in creating immersive gaming environments. Developing a casual gaming model that transcends the now-traditional mobile gaming scene with the burgeoning AR and VR industry will be a golden ticket for any game studio. With mobile revenues accounting for more than half of the entire global gaming market in 2018, it’s crucial to build on such growth. By 2021, mobile gaming will be a $180 billion industry. The ability to fuse pick-up-and-play games with immersive AR and VR technology paired with mobile devices will be the future of casual gaming.