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There has been a ton of negative talk in the gaming industry in reaction to Nintendo’s “casual” marketing strategy. Titles like Wii Fit vastly appeal to the “common man”, and left hardcore gamers feeling like they were in the dust. Casual gaming rose from the ashes of freeware PC games (we all remember those long nights of Jezzball). With a target audience of “everyone”, how can you go wrong?

Before you were a gamer, most likely you were a Solitaire fiend. Nowadays, you’re more likely to be a “born again gamer” after playing Wii Sports. Casual games are an amazing tool for developers; they allow anyone and everyone to be introduced to games in a carefree, simple manner. Back in the retro days, if your Mom or Dad wasn’t any good at Paperboy: tough (and don’t even think about getting Grandma to play Mega Man).

Popcap is one of the few companies that caters to gamers of all shapes and sizes. Mothers will boot up Peggle and go “cute, a Unicorn!” Young children will think “ooh the pretty sounds, colors, and there’s a Dragon!” Hardcore gamers, after skimming the surface of Peggle, will realize there is much more than meets the eye. Peggle, as it turns out, has a large degree of skill associated with it. You can actually learn, and pinpoint exact trajectories to reach that coveted “Extreme Fever”. Need proof? Read this, and watch the linked video for the old record.

It isn’t too much to ask that if you’re going to make a casual game, try to make it enjoyable for hardcore gamers as well (more games sold equals more money). Add in an extra hard difficulty, or take the time to create advanced strategies. Super Smash Brothers Melee is another great example. How many of you played as your favorite Nintendo character, mashed buttons, and had fun? I’m betting a myriad of gamers. Now, how many of you took the time to learn wavedashing, dodge canceling, infinite combos, and advanced edge guarding tactics? Not many I’d wager, and that’s perfectly ok. I’ve been to quite a few gaming tournaments, and Melee is highly respected even now at some of the bigger venues. Nintendo set out to make a successful casual game, and ending up, almost inadvertently, making a hardcore classic.

Fast-Forward to Brawl. Another great iteration of Smash Brothers, but something was lost in translation: the competitive edge. I loved every inch of Brawl, but it was sad to venture into a tournament area and still have to play Melee. The casual crowd adored the fact that every character was just about balanced, and there weren’t any clear cut “tiers” (Marth and Sheik – enough said). Hardcore gamers dubbed Brawl a joke, saying there were no advanced techniques to be found, and without tiers, you really don’t have a competitive game. Here’s the difference in my eyes: Melee, I would play by myself for fun, with friends for fun, and if I wanted, tournaments for fun. With Brawl, apparently society says I can’t enjoy the latter.

What do you guys think? Have you had similar experiences with games that ended up being more than you expected? Should “casual” games stay completely casual?

  1. I agree. If a game like Puzzle Quest can pull in all sorts of gamers, why can’t more companies aim to make more hearty and well rounded gaming experience? Even if the game concept is more simplistic.

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