Nothing beats a shoot 'em up like a good, old-fashioned farm simulator.
Traditional games like Halo, which require intense commitments of time and attention, are being supplanted by simple, low-commitment "casual games" like Farmville, the Facebook game in which 83 million users tend virtual farms. (In a story today on the industry-wide shift, Fortune describes casual games as having "small pleasures, constant releases, ease of play and cheap price.")
MySpace last week was trying to lure developers into making such games for its site so it could better compete with rival Facebook. And this week PayPal changed the way they charge merchants for small-transaction fees to woo the casual gaming industry. Big-name videogame designers are jumping on board, too.
It's a change that the videogame industry didn't exactly see coming. "The huge numbers of casual players indulging in simple games on social networking sites and spending money on virtual goods have caught the industry by surprise," The Financial Times reported yesterday. And the growth of casual games represents the industry's largest challenge since the early 1990's, says Trip Hawkins, the founder of Electronic Arts, the 28-year-old videogame company that earned $4.2 billion in revenues last year. Hawkins now runs Digital Chocolate, a casual gaming-focused startup he founded in 2003, according to Fortune.