Only a couple of years ago, free non-gamer oriented games were something not considered as a serious threat to the gaming business.
Now with the Nintendo Wii - a console oriented at non-gamers - is crushing its competitors (Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3) in sales, it's something the gaming companies have to seriously think about.
This has proven that there's a huge market for non-gamers who want fun, user-friendly and non-complicated gaming experiences to pass their free (or work) time.
Basically, anyone with the correct skills and software can make anything (although limited to a 2D environment) in the free online gaming world. Now you can see hundreds of remakes of old classics, from Mario to Sonic, from Tetris to totally new mixes of games, spawning new mind-bending genres that have thousands of people glued to their PCs, ignoring work.
One particular genre (or game type, whatever) has a particularly interesting story. It's called Tower Defense that many gamers refer to a form of cyber-sports on its own. The idea is that you have a base, a path and a selection of units. You have to build these units - or towers - around the path. The path starts off-screen and leads to your base. You have to carefully place your units around the path in order to kill all the enemies that use it to get to your base. There is a lot of financial strategy involved, as well as quick reaction times and careful planning.
What's interesting about this genre is where it was born. The roots lead to a game called Warcraft 3 by Blizzard entertainment. That game allowed you to make custom maps, and one of the examples provided by Blizzard was a Tower Defense game. It didn't take long for lots of variations to appear, thus resulting in a very popular modification to the initial gameplay scheme. It was fun, simple and entertaining. The key to it was the multiplayer aspect and the simplicity of it. Any player - even with a fairly low skill level - could easily go ahead and compete (or co-op) with the best players on the map.
This was a long fad in Warcraft 3, but eventually ended up getting flash treatment and became a popular free games genre that thousands of people enjoy today.
At the same time, there were vice-versa stories. A game called Alien Hommid originated as a flash game and was picked up by Microsoft - and is now available for download as a paid Xbox Live Arcade game.
While free games most likely won't kill the hardcore gaming market, they certainly took a huge chunk of market share of the gaming business. Let's just hope that they won't take it over entirely.
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