Popcap Games, creators of the wildly popular video game Bejeweled, has released a study which profiles casual game players. Casual games, which are graphically simple and do not require the large time commitment of online games like World of Warcraft, are by far the most popular game types in the US, with 29% of video game players rating them as their favorite genre in a May 2006 study sponsored by AOL. In this light, action games like Halo are an also-ran to casual alternatives like the numerical puzzle game sudoku.

Yet most casual games are either free or played via low-cost subscription, compared to Halo 2’s $125 release day price tag. Why should marketers bother with what some might see as a mass market of cheapskates? Simply put, because that is where the eyeballs are.

Since casual games are listed as the most popular video game genre in the US, all that remains is to figure out who would be the audience for a sponsored game. Popcap’s study reveals that casual gamers worldwide are overwhelmingly female — 76%.

Similarly, 71% of casual gamers worldwide are 40 and older — and 47% are 50 and older. These numbers indicate the mainstreaming of video gaming more clearly than even the multimillion-dollar openings of retail games: Middle-aged people worldwide are playing games, and even if the game is bridge, it is increasingly likely to be via computer.

Marketers may not want to pursue stay-at-home moms by themselves, but as part of an overall campaign, casual games can be a cost-effective way to reach a lot of people. Casual game development runs as low as $25,000, making exclusive sponsorship much easier than for the typical $10 million to $30 million AAA video game title. Such sponsorship is above and beyond the many advertising opportunities available through casual game aggregators like Yahoo! Games and Pogo. The next time you want to know what the most popular game titles are, you might just want to ask Mom.

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