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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 September, 2004, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Industry 'ignoring' casual gamers
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Scene from GameStars show
New titles have been on show at games events in London
Video games makers must try harder to attract people who only occasionally play, a gaming conference in London has been told.

The millions of people across Europe who play games for a few hours a week are largely ignored by the games industry, said Sean Dromgoole of research firm GameVision Europe.

He was speaking at the European Games Network (EGN) trade show in London.

It was one of several gaming events that were held in the city this week.

Short stint

The games industry is waking up to the fact that it needs to broaden its appeal if it is to become a mainstream form of entertainment to challenge film and music.

In the UK, people are buying and playing more games, spending about 20m ($36m) a week on them.

Many of these are considered hardcore or dedicated gamers, with the UK having the lowest number of what are described as casual gamers.

Screenshot from Harry Potter
Casual gamers are big on brands that have come from outside the industry as it is something they know a little about, like a game based on a film or book
Sean Dromgoole, GameVision Europe
According to GameVision, there are just under 24 million people in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain who play video games.

But a third of these are considered to be casual gamers, who play for less than 11 hours a week, according to GameVision research.

And a large number of them actually play for less than four hours a week.

Mr Dromgoole told delegates at the EGN conference that it was important to look at ways of enticing these people to buy and play more games.

"There are loads and loads of casuals," said Mr Dromgoole. "It is worth chasing them. They are our new frontier."

Currently these players account for 11% of the $30bn spent annually worldwide on games, adding up to a sizeable potential source of revenue.

The games industry needed to learn how to tap into this lucrative market, Mr Dromgoole told delegates.

"We are in competition with all the other forms of entertainment. We need to make it easy for them to come to us."

Nice and easy

In its research, GameVision found there were big differences between the types of games that casuals liked compared to dedicated gamers.

The most popular games are Tetris and big recognisable titles like Fifa and Harry Potter.

"Casual gamers are big on brands that have come from outside the industry as it is something they know a little about, like a game based on a film or book," said Mr Dromgoole.

A recent report by research firm Screen Digest estimated that casual gaming was worth 270m in the UK in 2003.

Many of the people considered casual gamers are women, who are often deterred by the exclusive nature of many games.

"We need to make them comfortable," Mr Dromgoole told the EGN conference.

"We need to find a way of telling them that this is going to be fun."

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