Is Casual Gaming Killing the Industry?

Is Casual Gaming Killing the Industry?

The other day I had a thought about the gaming industry as a whole, and the direction it seemed to be heading in, and I wondered if the industry itself was slowly dying from the recent surge in casual gaming. Now, before you all think I’m about to bash the casual gaming genre, please take the time to actually read what I am about to say instead of jumping to conclusions.

For many decades the hardcore gamer has had a vice-like grip on the industry and has, whether consciously or not, controlled what became a hit. We saw the FPS genre become over-saturated, zombies appearing in just about everything imaginable, and MMO addicts helping WoW  stay in the spotlight. In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the market, and we are now seeing more family friendly things on store shelves.

When I was a kid, gaming wasn’t popular. It was what a nerd did. If you owned an NES you were either the fat kid, the kid with bad skin, or the kid who was a teacher’s pet. You were never the kid that every girl had a crush on, or the girl that all the boys wanted to chase around the tree in the schoolyard. It just never happened. However, as I got older, and as gaming became more mainstream, it seemed as if everybody had a PlayStation or a Super NES. The jocks were even gaming! It felt as if something so sacred had been ripped away from us, and video games were perceived as “cool.”

As far as parents were concerned there was still the social stigma, they looked down upon it, and assumed we would all grow up to be mass-murderers. The media sure didn’t help either. Studies were coming out all the time and publishing rubbish like how gaming would make us violent, how it would make us somehow mentally inept, or that it would lead to a myriad of other problems. Gaming, and gamers, couldn’t catch a break and some of us probably found ourselves having to defend our interests.

If you were to go into a gaming retailer now you’d see shelves filled with games that would make most of us cringe. Sure one could debate that somebody out there will be interested in whatever the title may be, but the majority of gamers who have been around for decades perceive it all as unnecessary fluff. It’s there to make money off of whatever the target demographic may be, but it isn’t there to create a memorable gaming experience. When you really think about it that way, those games are doing the consumer a grave injustice.

Until the day I die I’ll always remember playing Super Mario Bros. 3 in the family room, or the first time I beat Crystalis on the NES, or how almost every Final Fantasy game has made me cry (for good reasons, not because I thought the games were horrible). If someone were to ask me what casual games I’ve played, I know I wouldn’t be able to name them all.  There are some that stand out because I genuinely enjoyed them, but most I’ve forgotten because I’ve played so many other titles that were exactly the same. And why is that? Are those studios lacking in originality and creativity? I personally don’t feel that’s the case, but I can imagine how others might feel that way.

I had the chance to play many casual titles last year, and while I enjoyed about 99.9% of them, there are some I wouldn’t play again because I achieved all that I needed to. There wasn’t a lot of replay value, and I suppose that’s okay. Not every console game warrants multiple playthroughs, so it would be unfair for me to require that from a casual game. A person who is into casual games is in luck because most of them cost under $10, making it easier on their wallet, but does that make the game better because it is cheaper? I would have to say no. I think that, regardless of the retail value, a person should get what they pay for. If I am to spend $60 on a console game, I damn well better get my money’s worth. Sometimes I don’t, and I grumble about it because that is a lot of money, but it happens. When spending $6 or $9 on something, I believe I should still get an enjoyable experience. I don’t expect the same quality in terms of graphics, but I still want a good story and good gameplay.

In a way, we should be thanking the casual gaming genre because they are slowly starting to help change people’s perceptions about video games. We’re seeing people in their 80’s play Wii Sports, but if we were back a few decades ago, none of them would’ve touched a SEGA Genesis controller. Women are discovering companies like Big Fish, PlayFirst, and MumboJumbo Games. Little girls can develop interests in cooking, crafts, gardening and more from the Mama series by Majesco. Mobile gaming has exploded, and those (incredibly annoying) Facebook games are distracting people who are at work across the globe. Also, with the recent releases of Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move, families can game together and have a fun time while doing so. What was once an activity done in the privacy of ones own bedroom is now something deemed appropriate for the living room.

Am I a little disgruntled that the current trend is to appeal to the consumer who isn’t a life-long gamer? Yeah, just a little. I think that balance is key and right now it’s heavily lacking. Part of me does get a little worried that hardcore gamers might feel as if they have been abandoned, forgotten, or thrown by the wayside. The last thing one needs to feel is as if the companies are saying “Thanks for your patronage, but we want new money.” Hopefully in 2011 we will see a return to the true gamer, and I say true gamer because we are the heartbeat of the industry, not because I think we are the only ones who have the right to deem ourselves as a gamer. I still think that companies should continue to put out those games for the casual individual, but that maybe they should put a little more heart and soul into them. In no way would it have a negative effect, and they might even get some great feedback from their customers.

Gaming has, and forever will be, an escape. It is a place where many can go to shut out the problems they have in their lives and in the world. It’s something that has helped me through my darkest times, and it is something that will be with me always. Do I feel that the industry I hold so dear is being threatened? No, not even close, but I am excited to see what the future has in store for all of us.

How do you feel about this, or the opinions I gave in this article? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

  • Chris

    While I can sympathize with the concept of “I liked it before it was cool,” I also have to appreciate the widespread popularity of gaming, as it keeps the industry’s record-books in the black, which means more games for me.

    I don’t know what crazy-ass school you went to, but I never chased any girl around a tree as some sort of flirting ritual.

    Casual games or not, the expectation exists to get your money’s worth. I want an equivalent level of satisfaction from a good $0.99 game to a good $59.99 game. That’s not to say that I want to be satisfied in exactly the same way, but for the price of the game, I want to get a comparitively similar sense of satisfaction. That will always be true.

    I disagree about the current trend being an appeal to consumers who are not life-long or hardcore gamers. I also disagree about a lack of balance between casual and hardcore gaming. I do believe that casual games are getting more backing than they were before, but that’s not saying much, as the genre has only recently, with app phones and facebook, come into its stride. I played casual flash games online for years before they blew up, but I firmly believe that their mainstream popularity has come from facebook and the iPhone. While they are getting a bigger push, I do not think that the balance is more in their favor. There was no balance between them before, so while it may feel like it’s out of balance because of the swift increase of casual gaming, I feel we are coming closer to a true balance.

    That being said, I’m not sure a balance is entirely necessary; casual and hardcore gaming are two very different things. Hardcore gaming is going to be destroyed by casual gaming, and casual gaming will not be destroyed by hardcore gaming. There is room for both. When I’m at a restaurant waiting for my food, I’m going to play Backgammon or Robot Unicorn on my iPhone, not Vanquish. When I’m at home, and you’re not using the Xbox, I’m more likely to play Vanquish or Blur than an iPhone game. I think it’s a matter of time, location, and availability.

  • Great read. Sometimes I’m not even aware of the fact that I’m playing a “casual” game, but I’m know I do. What I dislike is that some people assume every downloadable game is a casual game. I have to tell you some of those games are pretty damn hard. @_@

    Until things get so bad that people have to pick up the other console just to find some core games to play, I think the industry will be fine. Have you honestly played every thing available right now? I haven’t. I could ever afford to.

    • Lindsey

      Thanks Mario. There are tons of console/handheld games that could be classified as casual, and many are fantastic titles. There was a PC game that came out in 2010 called Drawn: Dark Flight and it was truly exquisite. Some can be challenging, especially when they lean more towards the puzzle side, so you are correct.

      I personally haven’t had the time nor the chance to play everything that’s available right now. I doubt I’ll be able to play through every game in my lifetime and I’m okay with that. There are some games I have no interest in playing and that happens sometimes. Money plays a huge factor, and I’m glad that there are services like GameFly available because it’s allowed me to play a ton of games at a reasonable price.

  • マリオ

    Great read. Sometimes I’m not even aware of the fact that I’m playing a “casual” game, but I’m know I do. What I dislike is that some people assume every downloadable game is a casual game. I have to tell you some of those games are pretty damn hard. @_@

    Until things get so bad that people have to pick up the other console just to find some core games to play, I think the industry will be fine. Have you honestly played every thing available right now? I haven’t. I could ever afford to.

    • Lindsey

      Thanks Mario. There are tons of console/handheld games that could be classified as casual, and many are fantastic titles. There was a PC game that came out in 2010 called Drawn: Dark Flight and it was truly exquisite. Some can be challenging, especially when they lean more towards the puzzle side, so you are correct.

      I personally haven’t had the time nor the chance to play everything that’s available right now. I doubt I’ll be able to play through every game in my lifetime and I’m okay with that. There are some games I have no interest in playing and that happens sometimes. Money plays a huge factor, and I’m glad that there are services like GameFly available because it’s allowed me to play a ton of games at a reasonable price.

  • Funkymoonger

    No stupid articles like this are. The industry, whether casual or hardcore as you supposedly journa;istoc types like to refer to it as, is still an industry. And if a “casual” approach draws more poeple to buy games and consoles, as has been the case, then what’s the problem?

    • Lindsey

      Not to be rude, but I have to ask: did you read the entire article? If you didn’t, you would’ve seen that I discussed the benefits of casual gaming, how it’s helped to break down the negative stereotypes, and that gaming is becoming a family affair now. The title question itself was rhetorical, and I know there are many people out there who are genuinely concerned about the rise in casual gaming. I think that balance is key in making sure that all interests are represented and respected, however I personally feel there isn’t that balance right now, but that is my opinion and why this article is an opinion piece.

  • Funkymoonger

    No stupid articles like this are. The industry, whether casual or hardcore as you supposedly journa;istoc types like to refer to it as, is still an industry. And if a “casual” approach draws more poeple to buy games and consoles, as has been the case, then what’s the problem?

    • Lindsey

      Not to be rude, but I have to ask: did you read the entire article? If you didn’t, you would’ve seen that I discussed the benefits of casual gaming, how it’s helped to break down the negative stereotypes, and that gaming is becoming a family affair now. The title question itself was rhetorical, and I know there are many people out there who are genuinely concerned about the rise in casual gaming. I think that balance is key in making sure that all interests are represented and respected, however I personally feel there isn’t that balance right now, but that is my opinion and why this article is an opinion piece.

  • Chris

    While I can sympathize with the concept of “I liked it before it was cool,” I also have to appreciate the widespread popularity of gaming, as it keeps the industry’s record-books in the black, which means more games for me.

    I don’t know what crazy-ass school you went to, but I never chased any girl around a tree as some sort of flirting ritual.

    Casual games or not, the expectation exists to get your money’s worth. I want an equivalent level of satisfaction from a good $0.99 game to a good $59.99 game. That’s not to say that I want to be satisfied in exactly the same way, but for the price of the game, I want to get a comparitively similar sense of satisfaction. That will always be true.

    I disagree about the current trend being an appeal to consumers who are not life-long or hardcore gamers. I also disagree about a lack of balance between casual and hardcore gaming. I do believe that casual games are getting more backing than they were before, but that’s not saying much, as the genre has only recently, with app phones and facebook, come into its stride. I played casual flash games online for years before they blew up, but I firmly believe that their mainstream popularity has come from facebook and the iPhone. While they are getting a bigger push, I do not think that the balance is more in their favor. There was no balance between them before, so while it may feel like it’s out of balance because of the swift increase of casual gaming, I feel we are coming closer to a true balance.

    That being said, I’m not sure a balance is entirely necessary; casual and hardcore gaming are two very different things. Hardcore gaming is going to be destroyed by casual gaming, and casual gaming will not be destroyed by hardcore gaming. There is room for both. When I’m at a restaurant waiting for my food, I’m going to play Backgammon or Robot Unicorn on my iPhone, not Vanquish. When I’m at home, and you’re not using the Xbox, I’m more likely to play Vanquish or Blur than an iPhone game. I think it’s a matter of time, location, and availability.

  • Augustine Alan Gatto

    I think that it is just another tower being constructed in the city that is Gaming.

    I really felt it, when you said that something sacred was taken, I really wish we could go back to before there was this surge of “coolness” … games were more fun then, I still have a better time playing N64 then I do playing the majority of new games. Though the boundries have been knocked down, JOCKS GO HOME!!! lol let them play madden 😀

  • Austin

    I think that it is just another tower being constructed in the city that is Gaming.

    I really felt it, when you said that something sacred was taken, I really wish we could go back to before there was this surge of “coolness” … games were more fun then, I still have a better time playing N64 then I do playing the majority of new games. Though the boundries have been knocked down, JOCKS GO HOME!!! lol let them play madden 😀

  • Vicente Pelechano Servando

    I do firmly believe it is. I am witnessing how casualization is basically killing every single hobby I used to hold dear, while it is good that more people playing means more games, it also means that those games’s quality are going to be seriously harmed and that, in fact, are not going to be “different games” as such, but copies of exactly the same shit done by different companies.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Infinite Engine games were all the same crap, until Icewind Dale II decided to ditch 2AD&D rules and use 3e’s, but I still feel dragged to play Baldur’s Gate and Morrowind over and over again, while I finished Dragon Age once and struggled to play it again…let alone Dragon Age 2 where they actually did innovate and dumped a bunch of crap.

    I am becoming more and more casual over the years, I grow up and high school was replaced by university and jobs and stuff, meaning I had less and less time to play, but from that to basically the crap I am receiving…I think Bethesda is the only company that had it right-ish by creating a difficulty bar the player can manipulate whenever heshe wants.

    Still it did happen when 3.5 jumped onto 4e in D&D, it did happen before to the anime where in the place you used to find Tomb of the Fireflies you started to find Naruto and basically thousand of mangas being exactly the same shitty story about a kid that rediscovers himself and will eventually happen to everything.

    People wants to be challenged, want to participate in epic quests, want to have their wits tested want to write their own story, in the other hand we are left to swallow what the next “Jennifer Hepler’s” gay character’s feelings are, because obviously that is more important than stuff like saving the fucking universe.

    If we are given choices about how to focus a problem and want to get a different choice taking us to a differen outcome, we are doomed, no choice in RPG’s, hope you liked jRPG’s a lot because that’s what you are going to get for now on.

    I will finish babbling, but just pointing out. Casuals care about very different shit that we Hardcore do, difference is that Hardcore gamers don’t pretend to be anything else while casuals do, in the end I hope that two kind of games appear, those for non gamers like Bioware are doing, and some tiny shady silver lining of games that are actually testing our mind abilities instead of our sanity with ridiculous NPC whining.

    /rant

  • Vicente Pelechano Servando

    I do firmly believe it is. I am witnessing how casualization is basically killing every single hobby I used to hold dear, while it is good that more people playing means more games, it also means that those games’s quality are going to be seriously harmed and that, in fact, are not going to be “different games” as such, but copies of exactly the same shit done by different companies.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Infinite Engine games were all the same crap, until Icewind Dale II decided to ditch 2AD&D rules and use 3e’s, but I still feel dragged to play Baldur’s Gate and Morrowind over and over again, while I finished Dragon Age once and struggled to play it again…let alone Dragon Age 2 where they actually did innovate and dumped a bunch of crap.

    I am becoming more and more casual over the years, I grow up and high school was replaced by university and jobs and stuff, meaning I had less and less time to play, but from that to basically the crap I am receiving…I think Bethesda is the only company that had it right-ish by creating a difficulty bar the player can manipulate whenever heshe wants.

    Still it did happen when 3.5 jumped onto 4e in D&D, it did happen before to the anime where in the place you used to find Tomb of the Fireflies you started to find Naruto and basically thousand of mangas being exactly the same shitty story about a kid that rediscovers himself and will eventually happen to everything.

    People wants to be challenged, want to participate in epic quests, want to have their wits tested want to write their own story, in the other hand we are left to swallow what the next “Jennifer Hepler’s” gay character’s feelings are, because obviously that is more important than stuff like saving the fucking universe.

    If we are given choices about how to focus a problem and want to get a different choice taking us to a differen outcome, we are doomed, no choice in RPG’s, hope you liked jRPG’s a lot because that’s what you are going to get for now on.

    I will finish babbling, but just pointing out. Casuals care about very different shit that we Hardcore do, difference is that Hardcore gamers don’t pretend to be anything else while casuals do, in the end I hope that two kind of games appear, those for non gamers like Bioware are doing, and some tiny shady silver lining of games that are actually testing our mind abilities instead of our sanity with ridiculous NPC whining.

    /rant

Lost Password

Sign Up