Saturday, March 22, 2008

BPN 1045 Buying casual games

In the past week, I have been in contact with Juhani Polkko, XIHA's Chief Strategy Officer, from Finland. He sent me a press release on XIHA Games a digital games store which offers a selection of over a 1000 casual game titles. XIHA Games is part of the international and multilingual XIHA Life. The service is developed and operated by XIHA Ltd, a Helsinki, Finland, based start-up company. XIHA Life currently supports over 20 languages, and receives most of its traffic from China, U.S., Brazil, France and Spain.Casual games differ in many ways from other, so called 'hardcore' games, which usually require a high-end game console or a PC. But casual games are suitable for the whole family, and they are fun and easy to play. The games work on almost all standard PC and Mac computers.

XIHA Games store is powered by its user community - 1.2 million people visited the site during the 6-month beta testing period. Users are encouraged to write game reviews and recommend the games they enjoy playing on their personal profile pages. The site is based on the completely open, so called "social media" approach.

XIHA Games Top-10 selling titles for February 2008 were:
1. Jojo's Fashion Show
2. Sally's Salon
3. Paradise Pet Salon
4. Turbo Pizza
5. Jane's Hotel
6. Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate
7. Baby Luv
8. Cake Mania 2
9. Wedding Dash
10. Cradle of Rome

What caught my attention was the business approach. The games can be played for free, but the games can also be bought. The social approach helps marketing the games by means of peer reviews to game buyers. For third party game publishers, this minimizes the cost of advertising, as the games get promoted by fans to a global audience speaking over 20 different languages.

Another part of the business approach is to ease the buying process in the Single European Payment Area (SEPA), which consists of 31 countries. Within this area bank transfers have become faster and cheaper, and by 2011, they work just like domestic payments. XIHA Games offers free downloads on all its titles without mandatory registration. Games can be bought after the trial period by sending an order and paying the email invoice for example through electronic bill payment.

A comparison with the US market, makes clear that the European market can be very interesting. According to the US-based Casual Games Association, last year 74 per cent of the casual game buyers were female and 72 per cent were over 35 years old, whereas a typical hardcore gamer is 15-35 year old male.

A single payment method will perhaps give the European market an advantage on the US market, which depends on credit cards. Now the SEPA is still working with paper bank transfers, which take days to be handled. Yet you want instant gratification. But it looks like we have to wait till 2010 to get the electronic transfers working among the 31 countries. With this electronic transfer the casual games can be paid instantly. In the Netherlands we have now the iDeal payment system, absolutely ideal. It is an interface to your electronic bank account and completes the transaction instantly. If I order for example a book, the money transfer is handled instantly, complete with transaction number.

I wish the readers a Happy Easter. It looks like it will be a gaming Easter, as tther will be snow in The Netherlands. Would you believe: a green Xmas and a white Easter!

Blog posting number: 1045

Tags: casual games, payment,

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