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Default Gamasutra - An Uncertain Future for the Core Gamer

January 22nd, 2008, 01:02
Gamasutra's latest opinion piece, An Uncertain Future for the Core Gamer? talks about demographics, market expansion, microtransactions and the effect it will have on the hardcore gamer:
You see, I keep saying that the rising landscape has a lot more lower-budget, asynchronous, low time investment, web-based games. And the response is usually:

“But the landscape you are describing doesn’t sound like games I would like.”

And that is absolutely right. I don’t know what happens to the core gamer in that scenario….
The author examines some business models using microtansactions and talks about the future of niches:
The thing about niches is that businesses try to monetize them more. Basic math: if you are making a title for a passionate minority who loves their hobby, you charge them more to cover the costs of operating in a smaller market. And, well, because you can

…But if the offerings from the businesses shift direction overall, then what? Like, there’s not much on Facebook for the core gamer. If stuff like Facebook becomes the dominant model, then what does the core gamer do? Under circumstances like that, you’d expect prices to rise for core games.

In some ways, that’s exactly what is happening, using microtransactions and premiums as the way to do it. Is the fancy metal tin on a collector’s edition actually worth an extra $30? Not to most people — it’s for the niche. The same goes for selling you dashboard themes and gamer pictures on XBLA. You’re paying real money for an icon or a desktop background — and nobody else can even see the latter…
And about the ultimate direection where all this will lead:
Core gamers are almost certainly going to have to adapt to a world in which a lot of developer attention is going towards a much broader array of titles than in the past…
…And the growth here will, to some extent, distract developers from making stuff aimed at the core gamers.
Who will also have to get used to being dinged repeatedly for their love of their hobby, buying ever nicer editions of stuff they already have…

Overall, I think this is a good thing for the core gamer, not a bad thing. But it’s definitely an adjustment.

The flip side that is equally interesting, of course, is that the mainstream will get tugged in the direction of the niche. As the world has become more science-fictional, we have seen the memes of SF appear in everyday life. Stuff from James Bond and Lord of the Rings is now common currency. The boundary lines between niche and mass market are very thin these days, and will likely get thinner. So even the casual stuff is going to have a heavy tinge of the stuff that we the geeks love.
Conclusion:
Given the nature of games, I’d expect to see a continuation of the trend to complexify the casual, because that’s what games do: grow more complex as people master the basics. The high-end casual market isn’t very casual anymore (some match-3 games are not only expensive to make, but downright esoteric in their rules)….
… What will the gamers do? Complain, then play on, probably.
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January 22nd, 2008, 01:02
Wasn´t there an article some weeks ago about the same issue? The author demanded more "B-Games" (as in b-movies).
This is what i think will happen. Hollywood games (=casual/mass selling) for the masses and b-games for real (=core) gamers.

There is nothing that would prevent a company to produce low/mid-cost games for those core-games as in the 90s. Core gamers usually can live with lower budget graphics and production values. And without a greedy publisher and internet distribution there isn´t the need for sureal big cash incomes. I think with this business scheme there could be SOME companies who can keep a healthy level of cash flow.
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January 22nd, 2008, 01:13
"… What will the gamers do? Complain, then play on, probably."

Not for this gamer. If games I like to play die out then fine I'll go back to my other hobby, painting and wargames. I seriously don't see this happening. Every year there is either a warning from websites about PC games becoming old hat and consoles will replace them or niche games are going to die out in favor of mass marketed games.

One thing I question about this article is does the writer seriously think that games that are in facebook are going to replace core games? If he does, then I want some of whatever he is smoking. Pogo or Facebook games will never replace core games. There is no way. It's like saying Monopoly will replace Warhammer. Ain't gonna happen, my friends.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; January 22nd, 2008 at 05:16.
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January 22nd, 2008, 01:28
Where there is demand - there will be developers looking to fill that need.

When it comes to console development - the dollars may be chasing a more casual mainstream player. Fair enough.

But PC development has no gatekeeper, has few restrictions and the boundless optimism of young talent continues to take it as a path to success. While Triple A development dollars may be lacking - there will always be new developers seeking to fill a perceptible niche.

In short, relax.
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January 22nd, 2008, 08:54
If there were games that make a visible effort to cater to my tastes, I would be willing to pay more for them.
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January 22nd, 2008, 14:23
It's good to see people with the ability to write clearly and without profanity covering this motherfucking problem.

The last time gaming was this popular in US culture was when games were extremely simple and craptastic rhythm/pattern games.As games got better and more complex than "run away from the ghosts and add quarters" the masses looked elsewhere. Complexity peaked and we've been screaming towards mass appeal dumbfuckery the past 10+ years.

If you flip image on it's head, you see incredible growth - or what us negative nancy worywort curmudgeons call a bubble. Like when the housing market decided they could sell a bunch more houses if they sold them to people that couldn't afford them, video games are abandoning the core market to seduce the people that ran away screaming when consoles added a third button to the controller. They'll dink around a few years and then lose interest again. Of course the publishers will be too stupid to notice this and lose tons of money on Wii Dog Petter XII and Harmonica Hero.

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January 22nd, 2008, 18:12
Hmmm. This whole thing smells like a 'PC Gaming is Dying' article wrapped up in a different title.

But the article is interesting and everyone can have an opinion. However, most of the article is speculative unless the author has a crystal ball that sees into the future.

I agree with Vidder who wrote:
There is nothing that would prevent a company to produce low/mid-cost games for those core-games as in the 90s. Core gamers usually can live with lower budget graphics and production values
I think we are seeing this happen with 'Indie' game developers. I think this concept will grow and foster as time goes on. Mainstream gaming will continue down its MTV-ization path but more thoughtful games will be produced by smaller, niched, low budget developers that I believe will make the most interesting games.

Small developers, by the way, can make quite a nice living in a niched market unchallenged by the big developers.

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January 22nd, 2008, 19:34
I enjoyed how this article was written. For whatever reason, Raph Koster's way of looking at markets is backwards (as proven by his Time Warner example), but it's an interesting view. I thought he described it cleverly and in a way that made a certain degree of sense.

The mainstream isn't affected at all by any of this, the same way our Moms aren't affected at all by any of this. My own Mom has never even heard of Raph or any of his games (sorry Raph). It's important to remember that, because someone else may come along who will (and that's the value of approaching it in the right direction).

There was a time when music was only sold in record stores for reasons all the "experts" understood and could explain. Then somebody from outside the industry came up with a new record concept and created a product that needed to be sold in Sears. But Sears refused, no matter how hard he tried to convince them.

So for an entire weekend he blitzed the US with radio ads at the end of which he added, "…available at Sears." On the following Monday Sears was on the phone, furious. "Customers are coming in, demanding your product. What are we supposed to do now?" To which he replied, "I have a solution."

That put record stores out of business. Eventually, somebody else pioneered the concept of music stores. That changed everything all over again. Today those music stores are all out of business, and Starbucks is selling CDs.

Customers want what they want, and it's the job of businesses to figure out what that is and how that might be offered it to them. Yeah, there's a competitive landscape, which is worth understanding (but not worth misunderstanding).

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
Last edited by Squeek; January 22nd, 2008 at 19:40.
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