More than 200 million people engage in casual gaming every month. No longer tethered to a desktop computer, players can enjoy completely mobile action on many different devices. In-home entertainment now ranges from expensive console titles to completely free mobile games. Solitaire and Minesweeper are in the past; Flappy Bird and 2048 are the future.
Casual gaming has evolved greatly since the 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, during the early years of console and PC gaming, users needed cartridges and floppy disks. Those clunky devices held a fraction of the data required by today’s games. If you didn’t purchase any games on disk or cartridge, you could always enjoy a game of Solitaire, which came free with Microsoft Windows. As the internet grew in popularity, gaming websites began to host collections of simple titles. In the late 1990s, trivia games and puzzles dominated the online marketplace. Their simple structure called for lightweight graphics and small memory loads, which boded well for users with dial-up internet access.
The release of Adobe Shockwave and Flash revolutionized online gaming. Still used frequently, the Adobe Flash platform allows for much better games than its HTML predecessors. Casual games are able to include higher-resolution graphics, smoother action, and faster loading times. Massive collections of modern Flash games, including award-winning titles, are available at sites like GamesFreak.net. Featuring free-to-play games, ad-supported websites provide entertainment to millions who don’t want to spend a penny.
Flappy Bird is one of the most popular and controversial games of the past year. Featuring highly addictive action, the endless flying game features one-button controls. Flappy Bird was originally released in May 2013, although it didn’t top the iTunes and Google Play charts until early 2014. The title’s extremely simple, habit-forming gameplay led to international popularity, earning the developer $50,000 per day via in-game advertisements.
2048 is another casual game that has risen to international fame. Released in March 2014, the sliding puzzle game is a modified version of Threes, an app that came out only one month earlier. However, the smooth, simple gameplay of 2048 led to its massive popularity, far outranking Threes and spawning many additional clones. Much like Flappy Bird, 2048 features one-button gameplay, which allows users to compete for high scores on mobile devices and desktop computers with ease.
Games such as Flappy Bird and 2048 have changed the way developers market their games. In the casual gaming realm, ease-of-use and addictive gameplay overshadows typical console game features. Instead of focusing on player immersion and character development, game manufacturers are coding a new breed of games — casual titles that users can download, play, and try to master within minutes. The gaming industry is quickly redefining itself to roll with the tide and welcome the influx of extremely popular casual games. Have you joined the craze?