2020 has been called “the year of the casual gamer,” because, during the pandemic shutdowns, millions of people who normally never played video games flocked to low-stakes games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Among Us.
With loads of time on their hands, nowhere to go, and no social outlet, Americans who were decidedly not “hardcore” gamers jumped on these games as a way to kill time and meet friends. Let’s face it. Zoom happy hours got old after a while. So friend groups started meeting up to play Jackbox party games instead.
Even people who hate violent video games like Call of Duty and Fortnite found Roblox and Fall Guys to be great meetup spaces. Some didn’t even want to play. They just joined to hang out and watch.
Casual gaming is an alternative to hardcore games like Fortnite and Assassin’s Creed, which are often violent. Casual games are also distinct from games like Legend of Zelda, which have complex stories and worldbuilding and appeal to a niche audience.
In other words, casual video games are like casual board games. They’re targeted at a wide audience. They typically have simple rules and structure, short sessions, and mass appeal.
Casual gamers are people who don’t want to spend, or don’t have the time to spend, developing mad gaming skills. They just want something fun and relaxing to do with friends and family. Often, these players don’t want to get too invested in their games. In short, they’re regular people, neither video-game hobbyists, nor professional gamers.
2020 was the perfect year for casual games and casual gamers, because getting together for board games and sporting events was—for most people—out of the question. Faced with a need for something to do—beyond yet another video call—non-gamers turned to casual games.
Casual games may have taken the place of sports for some people in 2020. But this year, sports are back.
In 2021, live sports have an opportunity to capitalize on this new casual gaming trend.
Many non-gamers who turned to casual games in 2020 found that they liked playing these low-stakes games. They plan to continue.
Instead of competition for attention, some companies in the fan engagement industry see this as an opportunity for sporting events. With the rise of second-screen sports-watching, casual games may be the perfect avenue for promoting teams and matches.
In fact, fan engagement companies like Versus have already capitalized on the rise of casual gaming by developing their own, sports-themed, team-customized, casual games for sports fans. These fans no longer have to choose. They can do both: play casual games with friends and watch their favorite sports. Sometimes, due to second-screen technology, at the same time.
This gives fans a new way to connect with their peers. They can even meet new friends through the platform. Friends can watch games together, whether they stay in their own homes, or all gather in one place. Jackbox Party Packs already are at in-person parties. It won’t take much for second-screen apps to catch on with in-person football watch parties.
The opportunity for sports teams comes in the ability to customize these second-screen engagement experiences. Versus partners with teams from every sport from baseball to soccer to fighting to create these experiences, which are deployed on Versus’ XEO Platform. Not only does XEO keep fans engaged during live events, it works to engage them before and after the game.
In fact, you can go on Versus’ XEO product page right now and scan a QR code or click a link to get on the XEO Arcade. There, you’ll be able to choose from over a dozen games such as LA Chargers Field Goal Frenzy, SEC Grand Slam, Walk-Ons Pick 6, and Pacers Swish. As you’ll no doubt notice, each of these games has been customized to promote well-known teams, sponsors, and even whole conferences.
It’s an opportunity for teams in any sport and their brand sponsors to get in on the casual gaming action. Fans will love to play, before the match, after the match, and during the commercial breaks. Customization links the experience back to the action on the field and to the brands who bring that action to a nationwide audience.
Party games like those produced by Jackbox made Zoom get-togethers and even house parties more fun. Second-screen engagement can do the same for sporting events.
Games in the XEO Arcade are easy to play. They don’t require a lot of skill, allowing fans to compete with their friends on an even playing field. Nobody likes playing board games and video games with friends who are so out-of-their-league that they crush it every time. That won’t happen at second-screen watch parties, where the attention is still on the field.
XEO’s games are all low-stakes. They don’t force users to max out their mental bandwidth. Many people– especially members of Gen Z who grew up using multiple devices at the same time – can play them while still watching the field.
This is a big opportunity for teams and brands to improve the fan experience. Even the fastest-paced sports have slow moments. When fans would normally stand up to get a drink or refill the chips, they can now get in a couple sessions of Field Goal Frenzy or Grand Slam.
Given the rapidly multiplying number of teams and leagues that are partnering with Versus to deliver customized experiences, second-screen fan engagement is catching on. This popularity is evidence that Versus is delivering a better experience.
2020 was the year of the casual gamer. 2021 was the year live sports were back in force. 2022 can be the year that casual gaming unambiguously meets live sports: the year of second-screen fan engagement.