Once perceived as an 'extra', customisation is increasingly becoming a staple trait of Casual games.
Social games, for instance the Facebook smash-hit Restaurant City, allow you to choose which Facebook friends 'work' in your restaurant, what you offer on your menu and give complete control over the interior and exterior design. Before long, players have to resort to converting actual money to virtual currency to continue updating their restaurant with high-end gear. Even smaller Flash-based games found on hub sites such as Miniclip or Kongregate are offering customisation.
Whether it's changing the colour of your vehicle or the theme of the world you'll be playing in, games customisation is becoming more prolific. The audience are clearly asking for it, or the trend would have died out. So the question is, why is it so important?
Games offer players a chance to own an experience. A player is handed a device to control the game with and then left to figure out how it all fits together. Tutorials and instructions tend to hold a gamers' hand at the beginning, showing them the ropes, but the ideal is for the player to eventually feel that they have mastered a game's ins and outs – their reward is the satisfaction of nailing a lengthy combo, pulling off the perfect maneuver or knowing innately how to manage resources.
The game is a players' property (well, that opens a legal can of worms I'm going to avoid..) and as such they want to feel that they can tweak and change things at will.
Of course, giving everyday gamers access to code wouldn't be that useful – there is a gloriously devoted mod community out there, but not in the Casual space – so developers offer a limited selection of customisable factors instead.
Customisation is an essential element of Casual game design, it enhances a players experience and investment in a game. As much as a solid Achievements system, adding a chance to personally modify a game is a huge draw for repeat plays.