[I'm helping all the GDC Summit organizers get the word out on their market-focused mini-confs, with the aid of most excellent Think Services colleague Jen Steele, and here's one we've written up on the Casual Summit, which seems to have a pretty neat line-up of speakers from the casual game biz.]

The organizers of the Casual Games Summit at the 2009 Game Developers Conference have revealed speakers and sessions for the two-day March summit, with notables from PopCap, EA/Pogo, Oberon Media, Playfirst and more discussing the state and future of casual games.

The GDC Casual Games Summit will take place on Monday and Tuesday, March 23rd and 24th, 2009 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco as part of Game Developers Conference.

This always popular Summit returns to GDC with a broad range of topics that reflect the increasingly diversified casual games industry. CGS' theme for this year is based on the dueling business strategies from the book 'Blue Ocean Strategy', by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

The makers of Bejeweled, Women’s Murder Club, Build-A-Lot, Fairy Godmother Tycoon, Diner Dash and more will evaluate opportunities and challenges of the Red Ocean (established markets, audiences, and players) and the Blue Ocean (newly recognized or created markets addressing new segments) approaches in casual games:

In particular, they will look at hot topics like publisher’s funding criteria, optimizing the portal, the state of monetization, common design pitfalls, connecting people through casual games, and emerging platforms and business models.

Top sessions include 'The Year in Casual Game Design' with Nick Fortugno (Rebel Monkey) & Juan Gril (Joju Games). Back by popular demand, Juan & Nick will dissect the most successful casual games of the past year in their own unique way.

In addition, the 'Design Today' segment will feature a series of mini-lectures from some of the most successful designers in the industry; Kenny Shea Dinkin (PlayFirst), Jane Jensen (Oberon), Nick Fortugno (Rebel Monkey), Miguel Tartaj (KatGames), Jason Kapalka (PopCap Games), Michael Wyman (Big Splash Games), and Todd Kerpelman (EA/Pogo).

These notables will weigh in on designing today's leading game genres and provide tips for standing out in a crowded field. They’ll also recap recent developments in Hidden Object, Time Management, Adventure Puzzle, Card/Board, Match and Strategy Simulation games.

Industry veteran and Summit co-organizer Steve Meretzky of YouPlus commented of this year's line-up: "The field of casual games continues to expand to new platforms, new demographics, and new methods of monetization. The Casual Games Summit is a single super-strength dose of everything you need to know to create and to sell casual games in 2009, in this fast-changing but incredibly promising environment."

Elsewhere at the Summit, while genres are expanding, the current economic climate is tightening budgets everywhere. 'Business in a Red Ocean: Surviving the Squeeze' will feature Wade Tinney (Large Animal Games), David Rohrl (Casual Games - Zynga), Dan Prigg (RealGames, RealNetworks, Inc.), and Ofer Leidner (Oberon Media) discussing their survival techniques.

Some of the key questions discussed will be: 'What criteria do publishers use when deciding which games to fund? And how do portals decide which games to distribute? How can the big Web portal experience be perfected?', and, perhaps most key: 'How does a small developer survive in this climate?'

Despite the tough times now, Summit co-organizer Dave Rohrl from Zynga is optimistic, commenting: "Casual games are the key growth area for the game industry. This year’s summit brings together a great lineup of speakers spanning every part of the casual game industry – developers, publishers, distributors, journalists and more. They span downloadable games, social games, and every other part of the complex and diverse casual game ecosystem. This should be a multifaceted look at this exciting and fast-moving area.”

More information on the full line-up for the Summit is available at the official GDC Casual Games Summit webpage, with many new details on the entire March 23rd-27th GDC event also now available.