Allen Varney has a new article up, Attack of the Parasites, in the latest issue of The Escapist online magazine where he discusses the explosive growth of the casual games market and the issues we're seeing that comes with it. He points to the rampant copying of ideas and gameplay to feed the ravenous appetite of the large game portals to shed a not-so-glamorous light on these latest dotcom darlings. Allen's pessimism spreads even to the indie casual game developers themselves who are facing an ever increasingly cutthroat environment in which to share their ideas.
Is this just business as usual? Unfortunately, it seems so. From my perspective, and while building this site over the last three years, I have witnessed a similarly unsettling proliferation of "me-too" Flash game portals that all appear to share the same content. Many of these sites think nothing of grabbing and hosting game SWFs without permission from the game authors or the sites from which they originated. One brazen site owner even claimed to me the games he/she was (stealing) were in the public domain(!). Furthermore, it becomes disconcerting to spend a great deal of time hunting down hard-to-find original pieces of work to praise only to have them plastered all over the Web shortly after publishing a review. And yet I am guilty of the same behavior even though I like to think that I am much more discerning than the others, and I don't actually host any of the games that are reviewed.
Still, the article offers a reality check for those in the business of casual games, both from portal and developer perspectives, and especially those of the mindset that casual games are the next holy grail of the games industry. Like so many industries to have come before, patterns are emerging that reveal this industry is no different in its growth and in the problems it faces. And like all bubbles, they have a tendency towards the same explosiveness that created them. Click.