Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Core games hit new heights, so why do they feel threatened?

Core games hit new heights, so why do they feel threatened?

Fri 27 Sep 2013 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT

GTA V and Monster Hunter 4 prove core games are thriving

Fans of traditional, "core" games are often extremely hostile towards the new wave of casual and mobile titles, and even towards the people who play them. They're keen to draw a line in the sand between these titles and "real" games and quick to portray players of Farmville, Candy Crush Saga or Puzzle & Dragons as mindless consumers of low-grade, repetitive entertainment that's utterly disconnected from and disrespectful of gaming culture and the medium's development as a form of art and entertainment.

There are good discussions to be had around those topics - not Internet flame-wars, but some interesting if slightly dry academic discussions defining the form and shape of "gaming" as a pastime, a medium and an artform. If we're very lucky, some of those discussions could even avoid becoming tedious tug-of-war sessions between the "narrative has no place in games!" crowd and the rest of the world. None of them, however, will gain anything from employing "casuals" as a vicious epithet, or deciding to sideline millions of game players as insignificant because they're "fake" gamers who play the wrong kinds of game.

Why does this kind of knee-jerk unpleasantness get so consistently applied to new, more casual audiences? There are uncharitable explanations which often point to uncomfortable truths - self-styled "gamers" have built something of a boys' treehouse over the years, and dislike the invasion of new demographics which can include such unwelcome treehouse guests as women, homosexuals, trans people, ethnic and religious minorities, and even - gasp! - their own mothers and relatives. Is nothing sacred?! There's also a broader sense in which this is not specific to games at all - there's a more universal knee-jerk reaction which sees adherents of any niche pastime resenting and rejecting the arrival of a mass-market audience and products tailored to them. ("Ugh, you listen to chart music? Are your ears broken?" "You actually like JJ Abrams movies? What's wrong with you?")

"Why does this kind of knee-jerk unpleasantness get so consistently applied to new, more casual audiences?"

At the root of much of the dislike of casual games and their players, however, lies a more basic concern - a fear that the rise of this kind of game is going to replace and erase the sorts of games which existing gamers actually enjoy. Watching Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga roll in countless millions in cash is a deeply uncomfortable feeling for the kind of gamer who trekked for tens of hours across Skyrim, who can utterly lose themselves in the flooded corridors of Rapture or the dingy streets of Dunwall, or whose adrenaline pours out when they're ambushed by the Covenant or surrounded by the Combine. If Candy Crush Saga can make so much money, is that the future? Is that all we're going to be left with - if not thematically, then as a business model or a creative approach?

That's the fear that drives the aggression. There's a hobby which we love, and a wealth of creative works which have given us unforgettable experiences - gamers fear that the new business reality represented by F2P and casual games is an outright threat to that experience and that hobby. In the chase after the new casual audience, game companies will be forced to abandon the pursuit of the kind of experiences which enrapture and delight the existing audience - or at the very least, to turn them all into tawdry fairground toys which demand that you pump coins into them to keep on playing, robbing them utterly of the atmosphere and immersion which is so much of their appeal.

I wonder, then, if the atmosphere of discussion and debate around games might become a little more civil (on this topic, at least) in the wake of two fairly important events in the past week. Firstly, you can't have failed to notice that GTA V came out and smashed through sales records not only for games, but for just about every entertainment media imaginable. Of course, week-one sales of games surpassed the revenue of blockbuster movies long ago, but GTA V cements games as the dominant entertainment medium of our era by finally silencing the last bastion of naysaying - not only did it make more money in a single weekend than the biggest films in the world make in their entire lifetime, it was also purchased and played by more people in one weekend than the number who bought tickets for any recent movie. Revenue or volume; count it how you like, GTA V is the biggest entertainment property on earth.

"GTA V cements games as the dominant entertainment medium of our era by finally silencing the last bastion of naysaying"

Meanwhile, in Japan, another entertainment property went on sale - Monster Hunter 4, Capcom's latest release. Its figures don't rival GTA's, but in the supposedly "declining" Japanese games market, it sold over two million units in its first week and helped to drive hundreds of thousands of sales of the 3DS - a console that's meant to be a miserable flop thanks to the unstoppable advance of smartphones and tablets. That can't rival Apple's 9 million unit sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C, of course, but then again, that's not a remotely useful comparison, no matter how often blowhard mobile evangelists trot it out - the 3DS purchasers are all confirmed gamers who will go on to spend heavily on expensive game software, while only a certain portion of mobile phone owners play games, a much smaller portion pay any money for them, and the amount of money they pay can be quite small (or quite large, of course, but certainly rarely exceeding the spend of a console owner).

GTA V and Monster Hunter 4; two games which are absolutely squarely aimed at the core gamer who is presently so terrified of being squeezed out by the flood of mobile, casual and social software. Two games which, completely uncoincidentally, have just become the biggest entertainment properties in the world and in Japan over the past few weeks.

There is no threat here. There's a small and dwindling clique of hardcore evangelists who will try to characterise GTA's success in particular as an outlier, an erratic piece of data that doesn't change the overall context of the industry, but they're absolutely wrong. GTA's enormous release is actually a perfectly logical and predictable continuation of a curve which has seen the top-rated properties in traditional gaming ranked higher and higher in sales terms over the past decade or two. GTA V is not a last gasp of sales success for a doomed industry; it was inevitable that eventually, a core videogame would achieve this level of sales success, and it is also inevitable that a future franchise will surpass this (although perhaps not for a few years, as the new console generation and the other systems which will play host to the next giant release need to establish themselves first).

Social, mobile and F2P gaming isn't going anywhere. Developers are going to get better and better at creating and honing those experiences, targeting specific audiences and even creating experiences in those categories that appeal to core gamers - no question. But this isn't the only way to make a game or to make money from games. There will still be a huge audience who want 8 to 12 hour long amazing narrative-driven interactive experiences. There will still be a core audience for combative multiplayer. Hardcore FPS, long-form RPG, exploration of vast worlds; all of these things have huge audiences which, far from being drawn away by the lure of Hay Day or Bubble Witch Saga, are continuing to grow and expand. Yes, the really impressive expansion right now is at the casual end of the market - but that doesn't stop core games from selling even more than they used to, as this month's success stories prove.

This isn't a zero sum game, and everyone needs to stop talking and acting as though it is. As long as there's an audience that wants and is willing to pay for core game experiences, there will be companies that provide for that need. Mums playing Candy Crush Saga outside the school gates do not in any way detract from the value of the market that wants a new GTA, a new Monster Hunter or any other core experience. This expansion is not be aimed at core gamers, and a big mistake being made by lots of companies now is trying to apply rational choice models to a fundamentally irrational consumer behaviour and deciding that core gamers actually SHOULD want this kind of business model or game experience. However, that mistake aside (and it'll stop once a few companies get badly burned for their foolishness), this expansion also does not harm core gamers. Once they realise that, perhaps we can all tone down the rhetoric and instead enjoy the hegemony of videogames as, quite remarkably, this generation's truly dominant entertainment medium.

23 Comments

Jason Avent
VP, Studio Head

139 140 1.0
Good article. I wonder what people are going to make of GTA's IAP system. That's going to set some forums fires raging as the business model from the "unsavoury" part of gaming moves into the core.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2013/sep/26/gta-v-micro-transactions-console

Posted:9 months ago

#1

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

196 1,036 5.3
I think that the fear comes from hearing gaming executives who are actively advocating the change of core games into more casual (mobile-like, if you want) games.
So yeah, when EA comes and says that all their future games will contain IAP and that their games demand too much of the players' time and are too difficult, people start to worry.
There's obvious gold rush mentality and a lot of publishers feel like they are late to the party and the best idea they get is, let's say, turn a beloved core game like Deus Ex into a mobile game (or that blasphemy that's the new Legacy of Kain title... I feel like Square Enix is going down the THQ way).

Posted:9 months ago

#2

Craig Burkey
Software Engineer

151 142 0.9
The way I look at things is there is transition between Games as a standalone product and Games as a service and with that change there is a change in how the narrative can be delivered, it's moving from a Movie format where a game has a clear beginning middle and most importantly an end, a climax to something akin to a TV series aiming to keep gamers returning but with that come risks like any fan of Firefly/half life can tell you that you are held hostage to other factor that determine if your allow to continue the story or if it will be cut short or left unfinished.

Then there are microtransactions, personally I don't have an issue with them, most of the time but its hard to get your head around paying to skip game, which is what a lot of implementations represent. I mean it seems counter intuitive that you pay more for less game, and I see some peoples argument that it forces the game design to introduce tedious elements to encourage their purchase but I think if a game started to not be fun it would lose its audience and market. The other thing I think that scares people with microtransactions is the notion of a death by a thousand cut and be lulled into spending way more than they would if it were a retail game

Audience wise I think there are two different ones that mobile and traditional games serve one is looking for short instant gratification that can be done in the ad break or without your full attention like a crossword,wordsearch or sudoku in the paper and one that wants to immerse themselves in something more substantial without a popup asking for cash appearing. Maybe I'm being alittle unfair there are people that play both and I'm sure some of the former where players of "Brain Training" style DS games in the past, but I don't think the rise of mobile is cannibalizing the core audience.

Talking of the core audience, the biggest threat I think is the lack of B/Niche games, it seems to be AAA or nothing. It's B games that serve different segments of the core audience and get people playing that wouldn't otherwise and create potential mainstream AAA purchasers

Ok these are my thoughts, I hope they make some sort of sense.

Posted:9 months ago

#3
Top article - I agree with Rob 100%.

Posted:9 months ago

#4

Teut Weidemann
Consultant Online Games

51 23 0.5
So you claim that two games of highend IP's and are in the fourth and fifth stage of their IP cycle are proof that core games are ok? I think thats not a good reasoning, I would prefer to take new core games which proof that core is back: like Dark Souls, DayZ.

Posted:9 months ago

#5

Patrick Frost
QA Project Monitor

387 180 0.5
As valid as the points in the article are, I really think that you seem to be inferring things with comments like:
There is no threat here. There's a small and dwindling clique of hardcore evangelists who will try to characterise GTA's success in particular as an outlier, an erratic piece of data that doesn't change the overall context of the industry, but they're absolutely wrong. GTA's enormous release is actually a perfectly logical and predictable continuation of a curve which has seen the top-rated properties in traditional gaming ranked higher and higher in sales terms over the past decade or two.
Now whilst you do qualify that statement with "top-rated", you are suggesting that this a trend across all of this kind of game which I think companies like EA and Ubi might disagree with. Although the argument may be more about profitability, gamers constantly hear executives saying that their AAA classic franchises aren't hitting the targets, that they are making hardore franchises more accessible (leading to worse gaming experience by all critical standards - looking at you RE6!), that companies are moving their entire business to different models.

No wonder gamers are scared. It's not mobile games, it's fickle business structures and money chasing top execs that flick-flack in this sensationalist fashion, one minute thanking the gamers for their dedicated support and then NOT giving them a product that they would enjoy or simply abandoning genre styles.

Posted:9 months ago

#6

Kingman Cheng
Illustrator and Animator

943 157 0.2
Popular Comment
This isn't a zero sum game, and everyone needs to stop talking and acting as though it is
That's basically it in a nutshell, personally I play both core games and casual games. It's hard for me to have a 'core game break' in between work. And at the same time I'm not exactly going to have a massive casual game break when I'm not working either. There are markets for everyone.

Posted:9 months ago

#7

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
There's no doubt that hardcore game genres can dwindle though. I mean, I've not found a decent vertical shmup that's actually had some production and polish applied to it, as opposed to being the bare-bones result of a game jam, for ages.

Posted:9 months ago

#8

Yannick Boucher
Producer

9 23 2.6
The hype surrounding non-core games has led to a lot of new investments, a lot of new money from sources who were previously uninterested, or even oblivious to the games industry. Little of that new money has gone to core games, meaning no new partners to shoulder the burden of the risks associated with rising development costs. And that is naturally worrying for some. On top of that, the simple truth is that any amounts of massive hype will eventually get anyone to wonder what it is about, and whether they should be on that bandwagon or not.

Posted:9 months ago

#9

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
Popular Comment
This paragraph sums it all up:
At the root of much of the dislike of casual games and their players, however, lies a more basic concern - a fear that the rise of this kind of game is going to replace and erase the sorts of games which existing gamers actually enjoy. Watching Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga roll in countless millions in cash is a deeply uncomfortable feeling for the kind of gamer who trekked for tens of hours across Skyrim, who can utterly lose themselves in the flooded corridors of Rapture or the dingy streets of Dunwall, or whose adrenaline pours out when they're ambushed by the Covenant or surrounded by the Combine. If Candy Crush Saga can make so much money, is that the future? Is that all we're going to be left with - if not thematically, then as a business model or a creative approach?
Im going to say this in an unpleasnt way. Its just an example. Im not singling out any one game. But as business if crap games are what makes money. Is that what we are going to be stuck with? Does the success of one type of game or platform mean the other cannot exist?

Another example is if making orange juice makes more money than video games, does that mean we should stop making games in favor of orange juice?

Finally TV takes the huge bulk of revenue, while movies take a small fraction of it. So does it mean people should stop making movies?

This mentality sucks...

What I hate is that when one type of game is succesful, people often single another way of making games as obsolete, such as mobile vs console, online vs offline single player, fisical media vs digital download. One form of gaming may not be as big as another, but its still a slice of the larger pie. Its not the whole pie and even though the slice it occupies may not be as big as another, there is still an audience for it and money to be made.

I cant imagine a world where only games like candy crush or touch screen games exist. If that were to happen id simply stop playing games. But as far as differant ways to gaming goes, its always good to offer consumers choices, the more the better.

Posted:9 months ago

#10

Pete Thompson
Owner / Admin

160 78 0.5
I don't play casual or mobile games as I find them boring.. I'm not interested in candy crush, farmville or any such game, I did play angry birds once, only to delete it minutes later as it's not my type of game.. I certainly don't hate anyone for playing those types of games though, well, with the exception to the people who keep sending a barrage of invites that I seem to get on Facebook.. I honestly don't know any other gamer's who actually hate or dislike casual gamer's, gaming is a form of entertainment, not an elitist club..

You'll more than likely find that its the more immature / young gamer who tends to dislike and flame at casual gamer's, but who listens to them or takes them seriously anyway.. ?

Posted:9 months ago

#11

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

550 267 0.5
We have a long way to go...

The game industry - all of it - still runs according to the Factory System. Until it can break out of that, and move to an Art System - which the film industry did years ago - it will remain in the realm of pop entertainment at best.

Posted:9 months ago

#12

Yvonne Neuland
Studying Game Development

33 58 1.8
Word.

That is what I have to say about this article.

Ironically, the flame war continues in the comments to this article, proving the authors point brilliantly.

Posted:9 months ago

#13

Richard Browne
EVP Gaming and Interactive

90 87 1.0
I think the major issue at hand here is that core games ARE threatened, but not necessarily by casual games running amuck. Core games are at threat by ever increasing costs to develop combined with a smaller number of publishers and developers producing them in a market that is SHRINKING not growing. The PS3/360 installed based is less than the PS2/Xbox one was, and unless Sony and Microsoft can find a way of selling their consoles to the mass market (something clearly Microsoft is taking steps to achieve) there's no doubt in my mind the PS4/Xbox One market will be smaller still. The core console market is going back to being a hobby. Unlike the PS2 (and of course the Wii) the PS3 and 360 never managed to grab hold of the kids and family market, in itself this had a pretty disastrous effect on a number of mid-tier Publishers and Developers who had made this their livelihood. The web and iOS started monopolizing the younger audience (along with Nintendo and their franchises) so the entry point to console gaming is now at a higher age. On the flip end you have a lot of core gamers who are now parents themselves and find making time for console games increasingly difficulty. Basically the core game market is taking a haircut top and bottom.

Next gen consoles will remain the bastion of high end gaming for now ; but with this market contraction, the death of single player games (increased production cost + limitation of potential sales because of churn) and the contraction in variety / reliance on multiplayer or massive experiences, the number of games that can ever achieve profitability will drop, fewer games will be released and they're likely to be as safe bets as you can make which in itself contracts the potential for market growth. Combine that with completely digital stores on iOS, Apple TV mirroring, to me it's pretty easy to see what's on the up and what will be on the decline.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Browne on 27th September 2013 9:44pm

Posted:9 months ago

#14
I wonder why there are not more B grade, badass 80s action hero games, (that have over the top action) with wafer thin plots that its awesome.

Posted:9 months ago

#15

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
@Dr. C.: Well, the new Earth Defense Force game will fit that bill nicely. It's "B" grade greatness all the way, pick up & play bliss and insanely long for a game that's a "simple" run 'n gun (which it isn't once you get into it and see it takes a LOT of experimentation with the 700+ weapons and four classes through all the different missions).

Posted:9 months ago

#16

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
None of us can predict which way this is going to go.

AAA core games are expensive to make, so need a large installed base of customers. If Xbone and PS4 don't get to this critical mass then it will be uneconomic to make AAA games for them. They will wallow in limbo like the WiiU and Vita. Of course if they do get to critical mass it could be business as usual. But this is looking far less than certain. And because they are generalised media distribution devices how much will they be used for gaming? Also one of them might succeed whilst the other fails.

Phones and tablets already have critical mass and more. They are just ramping up to 1080p+ displays, 64 bit processors and console like power. Mobile games are also going through a transition. Team sizes and production values are going up very fast indeed. The trend is that they will reach AAA level before too long. Mobile is by far the biggest form of gaming in terms of users and in terms of hours played and will remain so. This means it has the capacity to support many business models, many genres and many niches. There will be very many different commercial strategies that will work with mobile, thus far we are only scratching the surface.

Then there is the PC. This is far more mature than console in that it has long since given up boxed retail and made the move to digital. It also definitely has critical mass. And it will always have the potential to be more powerful (and far more expensive) than console. Right now it is looking like possibly the prime candidate for the future of AAA core games.

Then there are the unknowns: smart TV, Apple, Steam box, Android boxes etc etc

We live in very interesting times from a hardware perspective, but don't forget the customer.

Currently many in the industry are dismissive of the huge mobile customer base. They think that these customers are somehow unsubstantial and unimportant, only interested in trivial frippery. People thinking this way are very wrong indeed. Mass markets will play very complex games. Runescape has over 200 million accounts (and is FTP!). And mobile phones are already as powerful as many of the PCs that Runesacape is running on.
Mobile can be used anywhere, the settee, the pub, the London tube. Some say that you can't play complex games in many of these environments. Yet I see many people reading heavyweight books and doing academic degree studies on the tube.
So customers may actually be happier to play complex games on mobile than on console, because they have far more accessibility options.

Finally don't forget the cloud. It is possible to make the cloud the gaming platform. And to have consoles, PCs, smartphones etc as merely ways to access it. Obviously some thought would have to be applied to user controls, but it can be done. This could very well be the true future gaming platform.

Posted:9 months ago

#17

Patrick Frost
QA Project Monitor

387 180 0.5
Popular Comment
Bruce, your comment is a combination of wild speculation, panic mongering and stating the obvious. So much typed so little said.

Posted:9 months ago

#18

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Patrick, your comment is just a personal attack and adds nothing to the discussion.

Posted:9 months ago

#19

Patrick Frost
QA Project Monitor

387 180 0.5
Popular Comment
Bruce, what I've written is about your comment not you as a person. In fact if you read between the lines of what I've said, it points the fact that what you are saying is adding little to the discussion yourself.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Patrick Frost on 28th September 2013 10:25pm

Posted:9 months ago

#20

Sasha Yelesin
Student

53 33 0.6
GTA, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Skyrim all appeal to mass markets and make tons of money, but why don't games like Wonderful 101, Red Orchestra, or Mount and Blade sit on the same level? In terms of creativity, I believe they surpass the usual crop of expensive games coming out. Even Assassin's Creed has interesting historical settings, despite being the same game year after year. The games that step out side the box are the ones being threatened by both casual and AAA titles.

Posted:9 months ago

#21

Tat Wei, Yeap
Master Degree in Environmental Planning.

13 1 0.1
Personally, I think the current gaming business need to take a reassessment, for those who do work during the day had kids and loved to play games: what is the ideal situation for your time allocation? Are you a core gamer or you are a casual gamer, or are you both?

My personal casual gaming comes from the flash sites, they provide the 5 - 10 minutes relief when I needed and guess what? I don't have to pay a dime for games on those sites while boosting more variety in sense of; story line, quality, playability, customization. I still don't understand why game industry wants to sugar coating their F2P while in reality its micro-transaction based.

The argument are always: F2P provides the games for free, you'd need to purchase the additional features or gears to advance quicker than others, but you don't have to. It brought us back to the core problems of fairness in multiplayer games, where a person can spent money to obtain what you earned through skills and time dedication. If you think working halts your advancement in a core game you like, you can purchase the XP booster packs, which I have no qualm with because you still need to learn and earn your place by demonstrating your skill.

What is worrying the gaming audience these days, is having to deal not only with the game corporation that values $$$ more than fairness, the content or in general the essence of what making the game fun per se, and to a gamer like myself, having earn my gear through hard work and watching kids buying the gear does breaks the fun, and players will stop playing therefore you CEOs are wondering why there are so many subscription and yet your cash flow is meh at best. I remember back when the games have no instruction, and you need to learn the game through muddling over the buttons and such, and those learning is part of the fun especially when you find a secret combination of code through buttons!

What happened to game these days are not only the fault of the game corporation, but also from the user. When you think you're dignified because you work X hours during the day does not justify your buying of items in order to get a head. Therefore I always in support of the game that require less grinding because everyone can reach the same height with relative ease, that will stop the people from saying I can't catch up. The rest depends on your skills and mind to specialized your build (RPG wise) or something like counter strike where you need skills to earn your guns, not Xps like cough* of *duddy. But in these games, everyone starts out the same. If the player think the learning curve is too hard, well we have to think is that the fault of the game design or the fault of the user?

When a game company creates a games, it needs to provides options that best suited your audience, and do not put them in the same box. you can have one mixed box, but also to have other ones that for core - oriented gamers, and casual - oriented gamers. The best way to encourage gaming is proving the options to choose whether we prefer monthly payment, one time payment, or micro-transaction on that game that you're selling.

Man, i rant a lot, I apologize for my wall o' text.

Posted:9 months ago

#22

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now