Abyssal Pixels: Hardcore Vs. Casual
I’m fairly uncertain about whether or not I want to write something negative again because I’m kind of sick of it thanks to the Xbox One reveal and controversies. But there is something that has been stuck in my head these past few days that was sort of inspired by all the bullshit that has erupted, but has not been a real issue. It’s just something that I think has to gain some attention. I know that this has been argued many times over in the past, but this is something different that pertains to the next generation of consoles. That’s the topic of casual gamers versus the hardcore gamers.
There’s a trend these days that developers and console manufacturers follow with regards to casual gaming and casual audiences. There’s a clear-cut reason for this and that is: it gives them more money. If you want solid evidence of this then you would have to look no further than the Wii. It’s a casual rich platform with a large volume of casual games and it has effectively sold millions of consoles and games. Even the Kinect has shown us that casual games sell extremely well. There’s also the question of mobile apps that cater almost exclusively to casual gamers because that’s what gets the money. Just look at Angry Birds. A simple game where you fling birds into shit that has sold millions and spawned an entire franchise with clothing and ridiculous looking iPod docks.
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Because this appeal to a more casual market more often than not works well, companies have taken it among themselves to cater to it more and more. We saw it quite clearly in the Xbox One reveal. As I was watching the conference I kept imagining some dudebro in some fraternity house going “fuck yeah that’s awesome!” at everything that was said. As a hardcore gamer myself, the conference was so dull and boring because absolutely nothing applied to me. I don’t watch sports (as a matter of fact, I despise it), I don’t watch television (I download only the things I do like and nothing else), I don’t want Kinect at all (because I’m a chunky bastard) and I don’t care about talking to friends (I only have around two that I actively talk to). But I was not the demographic that they wanted to please. They wanted to appeal to your average American football fan that plays Madden on weekends with his friends. A casual player if you will.
I understand why they want to do that because that’s their largest demographic, but what about us hardcore gamers? I’m sure many of them had the same experience of “oh for the love of God who the hell cares about basketball” like I did. Some of them may have liked some of the features, but I’m sure most of them were just there for the games that we did not get. Appealing to the masses because they have the largest numbers, that’s the name of the game. To hell with the people that only play every game that’s released on the console, let’s focus on the people that watch Netflix and The Price is Right.
What they do fail to understand, however, is that hardcore gamers are their most sustainable audience. Casuals may have larger numbers, but they are not what you should focus on. I do tend to do this a lot, but I think the use of examples are in order to fully get the point across. Lets make it a little fun by doing some role-playing:
Here we have John. He’s a college student working on getting a degree in engineering. He likes games, but he likes sports more because he has been a huge basketball fan ever since he was a child. He bought an Xbox 360 one day because he wanted to play some NBA games with his roommate in his free time. He bought a few other games such as Halo and Call of Duty just to play for fun, but his library has less than 10 games in it. He watches Netflix on his Xbox every day as his primary source of entertainment. John doesn’t really care about gaming and only does it for frivolous fun every once in a while. He doesn’t buy any DLC packs or themes for his Xbox because he doesn’t need them.
Here we have Norg. He’s been a gamer his entire life and has a passion for everything gaming related. He’s busy studying for a degree in computing because of how much he likes technology. He works part time as a clerk in a gaming shop and uses almost all that money to buy games on release day and sometimes camps out at other retailers to get them. He also has a love for collector’s editions that he uses to adorn his room with and will make every effort he can to get them. He primarily games on an Xbox 360 and his library has close to 300 games in it, many of them special or collector’s editions. He buys Season Passes for the games he loves and buys all sorts of miscellaneous things such as avatar items and themes because he cares about the appearance of his Xbox. He watches Netflix every day after he has played his game of choice, but never for an extended period of time.
Now, which one of the above guys gives Microsoft the most money? The answer is obvious. The hardcore gamer. He gives Microsoft a lot more capital than an average casual gamer ever would. The only thing that’s notable is that the casual gamers far outnumber the hardcore gamers, but their impact is much less. It’s like 1000 kg of feathers vs. 1000 kg of bricks. Both weigh the same, but I would be fair to assume that you don’t want a ton of bricks dropped on your head. The feathers are in greater number, but they aren’t really spectacular. The bricks are in fewer numbers, but they are extremely tough and have lots of uses.
The point I’m trying laboriously to get to is that hardcore gamers give you way more benefits than casual gamers can ever give. Sure, you get some large sales if you appeal to casual players, but that’s where it will most likely stop. Hardcore gamers will stick to your console and give you more and more money and will give much more support to your products over a longer term.
Xbox One tries to appeal to the masses. It wants to give them sport and all sorts of entertainment, but more often than not they will only use the console for that and nothing else. Hardcore gamers will buy your games, DLC packs, themes, avatar items and use all the secondary features as well. So why try and appeal to casuals so much? Why give us 30 minutes of things that hardcore gamers do not care about when they are your most sustainable form of income? Perhaps they will change their tune when E3 comes around and appeal to the audience they should appeal to. They have proven me wrong in the past where their E3 conference was just a Kinect circle jerk with some Usher thrown in so I can still expect them to appeal to casuals. I don’t get it and I’m sure I will never get it, but one thing’s for certain: I’m still getting over the fact that I compared hardcore gamers to bricks.