Publisher 2.0 - Emergence of Mid-Core
We look into what defines a mid-core game
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"As a core gamer I'm genuinely excited to see diversity return with new platforms and the fusion of core and casual mechanics." - Jonas Antonsson, CEO of GoGoGic
There was a time when you could walk into a game retailer and be blown away by the diversity of products. A variety of games for every genre and even niche products rounded out the AAA and franchise-based mainstream offerings. That time is gone. Retail now relies on pallet after pallet of big budget games, mostly sequels and from just a handful of genres. Traditional publishers have become less and less interested in mid-core games, a category traditionally made up of modestly budgeted games often based on unknown IP that targeted a niche among gamers on a given console or platform. For big publishers, the highest upside for a these types of games still isn't lucrative enough to invest in developing them and allocate resources to market them. At first slowly but now surely, they've abandoned the category.
As mid-core neared its abyss at retail, digitally delivered casual and social games hit their stride. With the viral capabilities of Facebook and the mobility of cell phones and tablets, a new game market was created for a whole new crop of consumers who didn't even consider themselves gamers. Millions of new people enjoyed the addictiveness of games like Farmville and Angry Birds, with their experience facilitated by the ease with which they could access these games. To some extent, these games also drew an audience from former game players. These are people who at one point looked for their gaming fix on PC, console or handheld systems but eventually found the narrowness of what publishers offer on those platforms unappealing. For them, casual and social games filled the void that mid-core used to serve.
Redefining mid-core for digital
In digital, mid-core is defining itself as games with a combination of immersive experience and casual gameplay. As such, it's positioned between packaged products or hardcore MMO games, whether on console or PC, and the "new gamer" targeted casual titles served up in droves on mobile and social platforms. It's a bit of a shift from what made up mid-core in the earlier days of console, where game play could be very hardcore.
The shift comes from new platforms. Tablets and smartphones force game developers to adapt their game to the intuitive interface and typical situations in which these screens are used. Casual gameplay characteristics are inevitable. We could therefore consider Grand Theft Auto III on the iPad a mid-core game, whereas it was very much a hardcore title on console. This is a bit of psychological hurdle that game developers, and especially those whose pedigree is hardcore games, need to overcome. Those that haven't yet dared to adapt their games, whether from a game play mechanic or monetization standpoint, to what they see as an inferior experience are sitting out. Where they'll miss out is with other developers who are more comfortable with these new platforms piggy backing on their ideas or IP to create titles targeting mid-core.
From a consumer perspective, the mid-core digital game segment comprises players looking for a more in-depth experience than a casual game. Yet it's not as time-consuming as a core game, both in terms of learning curve and game play progression. That's partly because of the fundamentals of a platform such as mobile, where cumulative screen time is now substantial but split up between a multitude of functional and recreational uses.
This classification for mid-core is important. As mentioned, the segment includes former core players whose tastes in gaming are also affected by how much time they can dedicate to them. For some, it's a byproduct of age and the responsibilities that come with it. As much as a gamer of this kind appreciates and seeks game play depth, they'll likely show little tolerance for steep learning curve, slow startup curve or the inability to play in short bursts and come and go quickly. For instance, for them an RPG or MMO shouldn't require tens of hours to build your character before having a great play experience.
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