With Microsoft's latest Xbox marketing blitz aimed squarely at attracting more casual gamers, even its most hardcore franchise is softening up – but Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski has insisted his team "don't feel threatened by it" like other developers.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in London ahead of the release of Gears of War 2 on November 7, Bleszinski conceded that Microsoft faced a challenge in promoting the "chainsaws and blood" of the game alongside a family-oriented strategy with titles like Lips and You're In The Movies.
"Microsoft currently has to walk that line right now where they're selling a game that's a bit more hardcore like a Gears while trying to expand the installed base in regards to casual gamers," he said. But he revealed that, despite its violent, mature content, Gears of War 2 had been adapted to appeal to a broader userbase.
"Thankfully I'm in a position where I'm just trying to make the best game possible, but at the same time make sure that Casual [difficulty] is truly, truly easy, as well as having a little bit of heart in the story with a game that, yes, it's about monsters, yes, it's about chainsaws and blood, but it's also about a guy who's looking for his wife.
"There's still a fair amount of jock, fratboy, macho bullshit in the game – I'm not going to lie. But at the same time, there's a little bit more personal elements in there, and some of the themes in the game with loss, retribution and the sadness of war, I think they're coming through a lot more in this game."
On the growth of casual gaming, Bleszinksi said that "a certain amount of the hardcore game developers are nervous about that, and they feel threatened by it." But he insisted that both he and Epic Games welcomed this trend, adding: "We say anybody playing videogames in our opinion is a very, very good thing."
Microsoft last week unveiled its latest marketing campaign to target casual users. Sources close to the company had previously revealed to GamesIndustry.biz disagreements over allocation of marketing resources, with uncertainty over how heavily Gears of War 2 should be pushed at the same time as the broader-appeal offerings for the platform during peak season.