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Few would argue against the fact that Nintendo are single-handedly responsible for introducing a multitude of new folks to the world of video gaming. Younger children, girls and those who had previous little interest in gaming have been given a stepping stone into this exciting and evocative new world (even my girlfriend has started having the odd game and, believe me, that is an achievement!).

Now, surely this is a good thing, but how does this bode for the future of the more serious gamer? With an audience that is growing daily it must be hard for developers to ignore the potential profit in the casual gamer market. We are seeing an increasing number of Wii sports titles that are basic games, thinly veiled beneath a cutesy and colourful façade, for example. The technology is, of course, very innovative, but sadly the execution is often dated.

However, this does not just apply to Nintendo, as either I’ve become uncharacteristically good at my 360 and PS3 games or there are far more titles that exist as little more than glorified, interactive movies. And if you were me (which I am, so I can vouch for me), you’d realize the latter is far more likely. Sure, I love a cinematic game dripping with luscious visuals as much as the next guy, but without the challenging aspect we surely cannot have the same sense of fulfilment we have grown to crave. Perhaps it is this massive influx of the notorious “casual gamers” diluting the market that has caused some developers to pay less attention to challenging its inevitably less adept audience.

Mario Tennis

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting games are getting worse, but merely that a certain aspect of the enjoyment is surely removed when a game is too easy. Gamers of today are spoon-fed missions and “challenges” and options such as auto-aim, superdupereasymode and the ability to save anywhere are becoming all too common. For example, we’re all familiar with that old-fashioned, unparalleled feeling of frustration when faced with a particularly tough section of a game that leaves us tearing our hair out, before reloading and repeating over and over again. But the sense of achievement you get when you finally make it through and to a save point is fantastic and surely worth the pain. Arguably, you could simply opt not to take advantage of these options but, let’s face it, given the option to save after every tiny action you would, just to make your life that bit easier, wouldn’t you?

Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden: Definitely not one for the casual gamer!

Developers cannot be blamed for catering for the growing casual gaming audience. After all, games need to be profitable and therefore must be accessible to a wider number of people. Furthermore, there is still a substantial number of games out there that are clearly aimed at the more skilled gamer; Resident Evil 5 is incredibly (yet satisfyingly) difficult. The big question remains, though: if the current trend continues, will the hardcore gamers fade into the minority, whilst those who “dip into” them now and again become the norm?

Of course, we are far from this situation as there is still a huge number of games being released with the hardcore gamer in mind. However, given the current economic climate, the situation can only be exacerbated. We often argue that games are “recession proof”, but this is a generalization, games must remain profitable and casual games are simply easier to make and much quicker to churn out. Hopefully those developers out there who retain their integrity and dignity will survive catering for a more demanding audience. If Midway, the great grandfather of them all, can succumb to a time when the future of quality gaming hangs in the balance, is anybody safe without selling their soul to the casual market?

  1. Casual gaming is like the new casual sex. Sure, some think it’s great for a fix, but it leave you empty afterwords.

  2. Hey! There’s nothing wrong with feeling empty.

    One factor you may have failed to take into account in your vision of the future is…..children grow up. Shigsy has it all worked out. Get em hooked on Wii Bowling then BAM! Super Mario grave digging.

  3. At our current situation, I think developers have struck an even balance (on the 360 and PS3 at least) we are seeing titles that appeal to wider audiences, but we are still getting games like Infamous, Prototype, and the New Batman game. The biggest problem, which you noted well in your article, is that games are too easy these days. I thought Resident Evil 5 was actually too easy (compared to 4). Hopefully, developers realize that gamers want some kind of staying power and satisfaction.

  4. I totally agree with Tim, plus its addictive to the point of being hazardous. Like Peggle.

  5. avatar Name (Required)

    Lol I also agree! And Wii bowling is like a fat chick-you’d have a go on it privately, but you wouldn’t want your mates to see you on it!

  6. Lol I also agree! And Wii bowling is like a fat chick-you’d have a go on it privately, but you wouldn’t want your mates to see you on it!

  7. I think there will continue to be a market for both types of gamers.

    I have two issues with this article. First, you seem to think that in order for a game to be good that it has to be ultra complicated and made just for “hardcore” gamers (which, by your wording, appears to be men). I don’t think this is true at all. Just look at games like Tetris and Geometry Wars to see that a game does not have to be hard to be a good quality game. And what people decide to do with their leisure time, whether it be “hardcore” gaming or “casual” gaming, is completely up to them. Not everyone has tons of time on their hands to play ultra complicated games and probably just want to relax and have fun; the game difficulty will match their skill either way.

    Second, I have issue with you clumping women and children into the casual gamer category as though they are not skilled, competent gamers. I know plenty of women who love a good round of CoD4 or Resident Evil 5, and I know kids who can play Guitar Hero on expert.

    I think you also need to define what a “hardcore” gamer is. Is a hardcore gamer someone who spends every second of the day playing video games? Is it someone who tends to play during most of their freetime? No matter how much you play and what you play, there will probably always be someone else who plays more and plays better than you.

    Sorry this was long. These were just things that came up in my mind while I was reading.

  8. I was hesitant to generalize girls as casual gamers as I, too, know some ladies who could kick my ass at certain games, but statistically speaking there is simply a higher number of men who play games compared to women, so this was all I was inferring. Also, the opinions in this article are not necessarily what I feel about casual gaming. I tried to stay neutral, as I love both “casual” and “hardcore” games myself (I am still addicted to Boom Boom Rocket on Xbox Live Arcade). I was hoping to create a debate about an issue that I have found to be clearly sensitive, so the purpose of the article is achieved, as the response has been mixed, but generally very good.

  9. avatar jamie

    we love this topic at pixelatedgeek. one of our bloggers had a lot to say about it (http://pixelatedgeek.com/2009/04/the-problem-with-casual-gaming/) and he ended up getting a lot of heat for it. you took a good stance on it and kept an open mind.

    the game industry will easily cater more to the casual gaming demographic because that’s where the money appears to be. suffice to say, that means less catering will go towards the hardcore gamers. lots of us resent that fact, but we have to remember that “catering less” != “elimination of” – namely, frustratingly difficult games will still come out for us.

    very well-written article.

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