Big Fish Games first got my attention by offering one-hour-free trials of their casual titles, before that was a terribly common distribution method. It was a pretty appealing alternative to driving to a GameSpot and buying a CD in a box. Even most games that could be downloaded asked would-be players to purchase a full game, sight unseen, so it was great to be able to check out the storyline and UI before paying.
I also remember BFG offering a subscription distribution method with a certain number of games per month, but I don’t really remember the number and price point, I think it varied. Anyway, Big Fish has done a lot to put casual games in front of people who didn’t consider themselves gamers, so in a way, the announcement of Big Fish Unlimited isn’t really a surprise, just following BFG’s pattern of getting casual games in front of non-gamer audiences.
Big Fish Unlimited will allow players to access casual games from the cloud, play them across a variety of devices and save their progress between them. (There was also something about Roku? Which has something to do with television? Whatever, TV is boring.) It launched this week with a hundred titles from their pretty extensive list of casual games, and plans to offer more games on this service each week.
Since the new system allows players to switch between PC and mobile play of the same title. I’m not sure whether the target is keeping the casual gamer, someone who plays existing Big Fish titles on the PC, as these players move into mobile games, or whether Big Fish Unlimited is targeting new gamers, who’ve come into casual gaming from mobile. Either way, it’s a good followup to ways BFG has been making casual games easier for non-gamers to find and access, and it’ll be interesting to see how many existing PC casual players take up this system, and how many mobile gamers come into Big Fish Games.
I think the key to popularity will be how easy it is to use… Casual players tend to get frustrated easily when presented with a new UI, and there’s always a learning curve with new technology. Worse, if there’s any confusion about how games are streamed, or frustration from not being able to play games in places without signal (the subway, for example, is prime mobile gaming time), there could be angry players.
But if casual players can seamlessly move between different hardward, and seamlessly try new games, this will be another move in mainstreaming of games, and expanding the definition of a game. Which means that now when I catch myself saying “HOG” to people outside of the industry, I can quickly correct myself with “you know, like games on Big Fish.”