Jul 11, 2008

[The 'Casual' Fallacy and the Blue Ocean Rising]

Okay, I've just read this article called 'Birdmen and the Casual Fallacy', which is talking about how there is no such thing as a 'casual gamer market'. The entire series of articles here (especially 'Drowning in the Blue Ocean' which explains the REAL definition of a console 'generation') are must reads if you have any interest in the gaming industry or the 'casual vs hardcore' debate. They will challenge your entire perspective.

Here is a snippet:

"The game industry was, and still is, distinctively hardcore. They generate their profits from sequels and big blockbuster games. The developers are all hardcore. The publishers are generally hardcore as well.

When a hardcore gamer looks at a hardcore game, he sees sophistication, magnificence, and, most important, art as if it were a mirror image facing him. When a hardcore gamer looks as a casual game, he sees simplicity, non-art, easiness, and, in sum, a retardation of gaming. Hardcore view casual games not as progress in gaming but as games tailor made for gaming retards.

“Retards!?” says a shocked reader. “Surely you can’t say what you mean!” Why not? When a casual gamer picks up the standard dual shock controller, he gets confused. He doesn’t have the patience to wade through these elaborate 3d worlds or memorize fourteen button combinations. While the hardcore call him “stupid”, he retaliates by calling gaming “stupid”.

Anytime you read ‘casual games’ in the news, just replace ‘casual’ with the word ‘retard’ and you will get how it is truly perceived by the industry. “There is a casual gamer boom!” should translate to “There is a retard gamer boom!”. The “EA Casual Games Division” really is translated to “EA Retard Games Division”. “Why are you calling casual gamers retarded!?” thunders one reader. I am not. I am saying that the hardcore industry is the one who thinks this way. ‘Casual’ is just a nice way of saying ‘dumb’ in their eyes.

The reason why hardcore gamers’ hearts sink when a company says they will make the game include ‘casuals’ is because they know that all the edge, difficulty, and passion will be ripped out to make a generic, easy, and soul-less game.

Despite every company and their dog making these ‘casual’ games, the so-called casual audience is not buying them (just as they didn’t buy the platformer clones of the 8-bit generation, the fighter clones of the 16-bit generation, the GTA clones of last generation, and so on). When seeing their ‘casual games’ flop while seeing Nintendo’s ‘casual’ games in the bestsellers, the third parties growl and say, “IT IS ALL NINTENDO’S FAULT! People only buy Nintendo games! Third parties can’t succeed on this platform!”

The problem is not in these companies’ execution of their plan. The problem is their world-view. Their perception is totally off, and it is costing these companies millions upon millions of dollars. Don’t you think, guys, that it is time to think about things a littler harder before you waste more millions?

There is No Casual Gamer."


Cris said...

Thanks for linking to that story. Malmstrom is not only thorough, he's quite insightful.

I especially appreciate where he credits Nintendo for holding fast to the "disruption" strategy, as both their competitors and the industry analysts persist in missing the point.

As Malmstrom suggests, the industry is making (at least) two mistakes. Not only are they seeing "casual (retarded) games" and shoveling crap in the attempt to capture that mythical demographic, they're also seeing "motion control (gimmicky interface)" and slinging out games with unnatural control schemes. In both instances, they're missing their real target, and dooming themselves to standing in an empty room, wondering how the hell Iwata keeps managing to capture more of their "hardcore" customer base.

Cris said...

Spelling correction: "Malstrom". Clearly I live too close to Great Falls.

Pai said...

I think the sheer genius of saying "Hey, the hardcore demographic keeps shrinking and calcifying because no new blood is coming in... so you guys (Xbox & PS3) keep catering to those guys while we start converting everyone else into gamers and who will eventually 'move up' the gaming food chain, which we will also supply for them because our company will have been the source of all their beginning fond gaming memories.

Just brilliant! Of course, change is scary for the people who are quickly becoming obsolete in the new market. No wonder they're so bitter. =P