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Casual games go upscale

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The programmers at PopCap Games Inc. used to think of themselves as the unloved stepchildren of the computer gaming industry.

Their humble word puzzles and math teasers were in a different league from games in which role-playing characters spray bullets, slay dragons and maim rivals in fantastic virtual worlds. Such hardcore games can cost $30 million or more to develop -- as much as a Hollywood movie.

But the casual gaming niche, which includes hits like "Bejeweled," "Scrabble" and the low-budget classic "Tetris," is in the midst of a Cinderella-like transformation.

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