Casual gaming, economics of play

While browsing the iPhone AppStore, came across a game called Flight Control, and purchased it on a whim. It’s a simplified ATC simulation, based on defining routes for aircraft using the touch screen, and a great concept executed to a polished sheen – art, sounds, etc are all there, on top of a classic repeatable game mechanic with a good balance of infuriating chance and experience-based play.

The game is horribly, horribly addictive. Each game might only last forty seconds or a few minutes at most, but that’s pretty much perfect for a casual phone game.

A few interesting points here – firstly that when browsing the store, $0.99 / £0.59 is definitiely a price point at which I will impulse buy – especially if there’s some decent reviews. This is, after all the price of a chocolate bar. Secondly the ‘entertainment value’ of that money is ridiculously high (give that I’ve got at least an hour’s play out of this thing, cummulatively), compared to a pub-quiz machine, going to the cinema, purchasing a triple-A game, etc.

Thirdly, the whole mechanic of browsing the AppStore, with the possibility (not even the intent) to purchase is a very different way of interacting with the market of possible games than before. Better discovery mechanisms are needed, and I’m still waiting for the market to produce more variety (bring on an X-Com clone please), but it’s still a completely new way to treat software – except, maybe, if you’re browsing a street-market in China where every illegal disc costs $2.

Fourthly, the game mechanic really needs the touch screen – you could build the same thing in Flash, on the web, but I don’t think it would have the same physical joy of dragging the little planes around. Maybe that’s just me.

Posted Monday, March 30th, 2009 under aviation, gaming, geek, toys.

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  1. Geek.
    But yes, I know the feeling. My impulse buy threshold is slightly higher (and I’m Scottish too :O) but I’ve definitely got my moneys worth from bejeweled and got Spore this weekend which kept me busy (when I couldn’t log wow).

    And now I’m gonna have to get a Skype account too… What’s your thoughts on that one?

  2. invented. It’s the true dawn of a of a bright future: wifi, cell networks, landlines all merge into one glorious mess, anything can connect directly to anything, all hardware contains and transmits biometrics and lifesigns, everything is controllable by thought and gesture, all you data is stored forever on the cheapest commodity virtual data-center that you bought storage derivatives in, wars are fought by botnets, humans become fuel for the machines, a monolith is found on the moon, humans explore the Higgs and the solar system, time travel is

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