Nobody buys casual games

The mass invasion of Sudoku knock-offs and Bejewelled clones apparently only makes up a fraction of the online games market, according to sales statistics.

Speaking at a lecture called "Five Big Things Publishers Don't Understand About Small Games" at the Develop conference in Brighton today, games developer Sean Murray revealed statistics showing the "casual" game market accounts for less than five per cent of the sales on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Despite the low sales figures, Murray pointed out that 31 per cent of XBLA games fall into the "casual" category.

"They're cheap to make, they're easier to make," explained Murray, but added "nobody is buying them really." According to Murray, a major reason for the explosion in casual gaming wasn't demand from gamers, but a misconception among games publishers that it's a cash cow prime for mass milking.

He calls this the "Uno effect," referring to the digital version of card game Uno, which sold over a million copies on XBLA. However, Murray points out that Uno "was given away for free with the Xbox 360 Arcade, and then grew via word-of-mouth."

Of course, this doesn't account for the huge success of free casual games on the Internet, but it does show that owners of top-end games consoles are far more interested in downloading proper games than casual games. Murray also pointed out that 47 per cent of games available on XBLA don't sell any more than 25,000 copies.

Murray is the director of Hello Games, which is currently working on Joe Danger for Sony's online PSN download store.