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After reading Steshep’s article on casual gaming, I started thinking about how I truly feel about the casual gaming market, and what I think it does for both audiences (hardcore and casual).  After looking around forums and checking out the comments left at N4G it seems that casual gaming has almost reached Red Scare status.  Granted, there hasn’t been a head figure such as McCarthy to guide and dictate, but I feel like some gamers are afraid of it.

To quote one comment “Casual gaming is the apocalypse.”  This phrase here confuses me because this reader offered nothing other than his opinion (which he is entitled to) without offering any reasoning behind it.  Granted, his viewpoint is extreme and his trolling unnecessary, but his comment works for the next sentence.   Casual gaming is not the apocalypse, on the contrary, it’s merely the by product of a growing industry, and in the long run will benefit the hardcore audience.

The first problem I have with the casual vs. hardcore is that neither side is clearly defined.  What really makes a player casual or hardcore?  Casual is defined as an irregular or occasional occurrence.  Coupling this with gamer, we get someone that enjoys playing a game on occasion.  This means that a casual game should be a game that doesn’t require a lot of investment and will give instant gratification through points or scores.  Yet, gamers are constantly pointing and shouting at everything that is released on the Wii as a casual game.

Games like Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Party are branded as casual titles through their association with the Wii.  Yes, there are many titles on the Wii that are family-friendly because of their pick-up and play ability, but that doesn’t mean that every title with a cute main character is a casual game.  Anyway, I don’t think someone that plays a game every so often is going to be a legitimate threat to a multi-billion dollar industry…unless of course the industry focuses on shifting them into hardcore gamers.

This is where the industry has made their mistake.  The chum scattered waters of the casual titles has little hooks floating around with giddy big name companies waiting on the other end.  See, their goal isn’t to make a ton of casual titles.  It wouldn’t make sense because casual gamers don’t go out and buy games every month.  If you have noticed the difficulty shift in games recently, towards being easier, the companies that are trying to transform the casual market into the hardcore are to blame, not the casual market itself.

They are trying to morph them into the unswervingly committed; uncompromising; and dedicated customer.  They want the occasional gamers to try out their more premiere titles so the normal difficulty is being knocked down a couple of pegs to create the dreaded (and true villain, accessibility) .  Publishers (I don’t think its directly the developers, however they are involved) are pushing their licensees to pump out games that are going to bridge the gap between both markets.  Anyone that played Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 noticed the former game’s challenging difficulty, and the latter felt like a walk through the park with the occasional rose bush.  I worry like others do that this may leave a scare on the industry, and it will.

Games are not going to get any more difficult, but we will still have titles like Resistance (although its difficulty isn’t legitimate) and Bayonetta to keep our challenge deprivation at a minimum.  I have decided that I am going start playing the higher difficulty levels so my playing experience fits with what I want out of the game.  We should also welcome our casual brothers because they, in every sense of the word, are gamers too.

They are another breed to be sure, but their existence means that publishers and developers are going to do their best, even if it hurts us sometimes, to bring them to our side.  Who knows, maybe their push will give birth to the next Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.   They may not play as often as we do, or even spend as much money, but someday they may bite the bullet and try that used copy of Devil May Cry or crank up the difficulty on Rock Band.

  1. Good article. It certainly seems to be a topic of recent debate and I tried to remain neutral in my approach, whilst painting a hypothetical, but potential future regarding casual gaming. We are far from a market completely diluted by casual games, but trends are showing a definite shift and growth in the number of casual gamers. Though you are right that the term “casual gamer” in itself is quite unclear and seems to be a buzz word at the minute, there is a huge number of games out there that are clearly not aimed at challenging the more avid gamer. However, that’s not to say there aren’t many games out there that even the most hardcore of gamers will find difficult on the highest difficulty setting. As I say, it’s unlikely that hardcore gaming is in any way jeopardized, but it’s definitely an interesting subject that is creating fierce debate amongst the gaming community. Anyway, good read.

  2. Thanks, I appreciate the compliment on the article. I really feel that both communities offer something to the industry, and when companies get it right, games like Rock Band and Puzzle Quest are born. I hope that they continue to keep the people that are buying their games in mind, and release something that I am willing to invest in.

  3. Good points here, I like it. I’ve come to embrace casual gamers. It’s true, it may be their catalyst to enjoyed some more involved and challenging titles.

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