The current best selling games at Big Fish Games are listed here:
- Escape From Paradise
- Big City Adventure – San Francisco
- Nanny Mania
- Agatha Christie – Death on the Nile
- The Apprentice: Los Angeles
- Private Eye – Greatest Unsolved Mysteries
- Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst
- Mystery of Shark Island
- Magic Academy
- Virtual Villagers – The Lost Children
Two games got my attention: Agatha Christie and The Apprentice. Both games could have possibility to be something different, but they fell into the same soup than everything else. Christie’s game has pretty much nothing in common how Hercule Poirot was working (Sherlock Holmes might spend his time on picking objects, but Poirot was more interested in using his gray brain cells and psychological factors). The other game – The Apprentice – could provide some business lessons… but no chance: it’s pretty typical clone in the restaurant dinner service genre.
I understand that best games aren’t necessarily the best selling games, but it still would have been fun to see some real innovation in these kind of games based on known brands. Naturally the games were done well, and polished – but after seeing clone after clone I would have expected to see something else.
I want to make this really clear: I have respect for all these production teams. Anyone who is climbing to the top 10 list in portal lists has done a great job polishing a game that people want to play – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Only about the innovation in games I might say a word or two.
The next coming of adventure games?
The same theme seems to continue in many other games. Mystery Case and Mystery of Shark Island for example are in the popular find stuff genre. I wonder when adventure gamers realize how great treasures they are holding their hands… there could be room for some extremely simple 2D adventure games where you need to find some items… and use them with other items. Add little speech, dialog, humor and fine art and we might see a miracle: adventure games might truly become one of the best-selling genre in games.
Or not, if they decide to make things complex with “look at”, “walk”, “talk, “use” and other commands – when they should only have one mouse button in use.
What all these games have in common
Besides being very well polished, family friendly and fun games – these best selling games seem to have something in common:
- Almost all of them are technically simple or very simple. Just take a look at Mystery Case for example. That game is technically extremely simple: list objects, pick objects, get points. If you compare it to games such as Gears of Wars: I bet those guys spent more time making the facial animations (which is just one part in the game) than Mystery Case people spent on coding the game. (And by all means I don’t mean to bash the makers of Mystery Case – it’s good to keep things simple).
- They usually belong to some quite typical genre. Serving, sims stylish, finding objects… these are the typical best selling genres for now (but only for so long after somebody figures out a bit better idea and cloning starts again). These genres are selling now, and developers and portals are catering for them. When somebody comes up with a better (simple) idea… there will be switch in genres. Match-3 type of games are not so popular anymore, although there are some of them still selling.
- They are loyal to the “definitions” of casual games. They are time killers, they can be played by moms, they have a short learning curve, they can be played when somebody can spare a little time for playing. These games are defining what casual games really are.
It’s good to remember that best games and best selling games are two different things. Sometimes very different. Top selling games in the portals are really casual – keeping things simple, yet fun.