Jeroen Bouwman, Head of Content Acquisition & Michael Louw, Senior Games Producer at Spil Games reveal the opportunities in casual games in 2013.

Sponsored Post: Casual gaming – into 2013, and beyond!

2013 – it’s an exciting time for casual gamers and developers alike, with 20-30 new games exploding onto the app stores on a daily basis. New audiences, some who wouldn’t have previously considered themselves as gamers, have expanded and the opportunities to engage them are more widespread than ever.

But this also means the marketplace is much more crowded and achieving successful cut through for your killer title can be tricky. In the first of two blog-posts, we look at how developers can take the bull by the horns in 2013 and offer out our thoughts on how you can best play on your strengths and navigate the gaming space to your advantage.

There’s life outside of Facebook

Facebook, like the Apple App Store too, impose a 30% revenue share on developers. This has led to some developers weathering a loss for 6-12 months after a game has launched.

All this adds up to being a massive distraction for developers from getting on with what they love to do: imaginatively designing games. How can a developer focus on creating a high quality, fun and engaging game if he or she is preoccupied with these barriers in the market?

The bottom line is that we’ve reached a point where solely relying on a platform such as Facebook can no longer be a healthy business model. Switched on developers shouldn’t ignore the alternatives and be prepared to be flexible from the start. For instance, making sure your games’ infrastructures can plug into other third party APIs is of paramount importance to this.

Abracadabra! User aquisition!

Sadly, gamers don’t appear like rabbits out of hats, so be sure to set aside budget for user acquisition, or partner with someone who can. Dedicated gaming environments really deliver when it comes to targeting user bases because audiences dwell there for the sole purpose of gaming.

There’s also a bigger need today for developers to begin partnering more frequently with major publishers such as the RTL Group or media partners to maximise promotions with their captive audiences.

Bang the PR drum

Bill Gates famously said: "If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations", and we’d have to concur.

Spreading the word about your game is absolutely vital. With social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter freely available, the opportunity to start self-publicising about your game from the moment you start building it shouldn’t be missed.

Not everyone can ‘do a Rockstar’ and release a screenshot of a new game months before its release and instantly snatch headlines, but you can be creative and foster a following so that once your game launches, you’ve already got ‘bums on seats’.

Why not blog about your day, the pleasure and pain of writing code and your view of the latest releases? What makes your game fun and unique?

Quality control & guinea pigs

The best developers today are those who are 100% committed to their releases. Quality levels need to be maintained and so a game should be managed on an on-going basis once it’s been released.

A little bit of love can go a long way towards ensuring a game has a longevity and a prosperous lifetime. Fixes are essential and updates are a great way of keeping the game current and users engaged with fresh content.

Those developers who are agile enough to react to what’s hot with their specific target audience are on to a winner. In the notoriously fast-changing teen demographic, one of our areas of expertise, a week doesn’t go by without a new fad emerging in pop music or culture.

The ability to market intelligently to an audience, not simply pushing out messages but knowing them in a sophisticated manner and engaging with them on a granular level is highly valuable to developers.

One such approach is incorporating user testing into your development, both in formal (i.e focus groups) and informal settings. I [Michael] will often test out my new work, such as Race Track Rivals, on my family members to gain honest feedback and see whether a new game’s gameplay is easy enough to pick up in a matter of seconds and whether or not it is sufficiently challenging.

Over the year’s they’ve really helped me find this sweet-spot in my new games, I recommend using your family and friends as guinea pigs!

More from Spil Games’ Jeroen and Michael on what lies beyond 2013, next week…

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