"Casual gaming" is a term the video game industry uses to refer to games that don't require a large investment of time to play and/or complete. Instead of spending hours figuring out Take-Two Interactive's (Nasdaq: TTWO ) Bully adventure, for example, you might just want to play Tetris or Brain Age for a short period.
Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) wants to reach out to casual gamers by supplying them with titles based on well-known, classic properties from Hasbro (NYSE: HAS ) . In a recently announced deal, EA will take gaming concepts such as Monopoly and Scrabble and create digital counterparts of them for all kinds of platforms -- mobile, PC, consoles, you name it. Interestingly enough, the partnership allows Hasbro to develop toys based on its own intellectual properties. The rights for the aforementioned Hasbro games, as well as others, were previously owned by Infogrames Entertainment, parent of Atari (Nasdaq: ATAR ) , but Infogrames sold the digital rights back to Hasbro last month.
Casual gaming is an important component of future growth for the video game industry. As I said at the outset, not everyone has time to play a Bully or a Resident Evil title (though I advise everyone out there to make time for the latter game -- yes, it's that good). In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article quoted figures from Pacific Crest Securities and the NPD Group that estimated last year's revenue value of the casual-gaming PC genre to be $380 million -- that's a pittance compared with the multibillion-dollar value of the industry as a whole. However, Pacific Crest believes that casual games will have a pretty high growth rate this year -- 35% to be exact. Giants such as Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , and Nintendo all are aware of the importance of this arena; even Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) is entering it.
Such a double-digit showing shouldn't surprise. I argued not long ago that EA CEO John Riccitiello was correct when he stated that video games these days are too complex for many users. This, in my opinion, has led to a huge upswing in the casual-gaming marketplace. EA is taking it seriously, having formed a division dedicated to serving this audience.
Hooking up with Hasbro should aid EA in its quest to win the hearts and minds of users who favor short bursts of fun. Leveraging the brand value of Hasbro's library makes sense, since there is so much history behind it; I mean, who hasn't ever landed on Park Place and felt the pain of having to pony up a ton of fake money to rent out the space? It's a common, miserable experience.
Board games like Monopoly have been featured on gaming platforms before, so it will be interesting to see how EA will present them; the press release states that the first games from the new partnership will appear in 2008 and that they will be "re-imagined" for a new generation. It's wise to freshen things up -- after all, in this era of age compression, where traditional toys aren't as seductive as they once were, board games can seem quite quaint.
It'll be a while before we see the first fruits of this announced labor, but I look forward to it. Hardcore gamers need not worry -- you'll always be covered with the latest 40-hour first-person shooter or RPG. But for those looking to play with simpler games that don't take more than an hour or so, EA and Hasbro are looking to meet your needs as well.
Get in the game with EA and the Fool:
- Fool on Call: EA's New Game Plan
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- Fast Fool Facts: Easygoing Electronic Arts
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Nintendo. As of this writing, he was ranked 11,123 out of more than 60,000 participants in Motley Fool CAPS. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.