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 Nonchalant Gaming
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Nonchalant Gaming - Jan 11, 2008 00:17
The term " casual gamer" appears to have undergone radical change in the last 12 months. At one time you would have described the people who bought the Need For Speed and FIFA/Pro Evolution games as " casual gamers" , whereas now they' re being lumped together with the rest of the " traditional gaming" audience.

I think however that it was simply a misconception that those games were " casual" . Having put some thought into it i would probably be more inclined to describe them as " populist" games that have a subject matter which appeals to a large percentage of the more traditional gaming demographic.

When you look at a console like the original Xbox where Microsoft only really reached a more hardcore audience and struggled to expand into the more mainstream market, you understand why they' re now pushing their Arcade SKU and games like Scene It and Viva Pinata. While many of the more traditional gamers, myself included would much rather have had Rare working on a Killer Instinct or Conker sequel, those games would have only reached the core userbase Microsoft carried over from their original console.

So a casual game is best described as a title that your mother, father, children and grandparents can all play, has universal appeal, simple rules, relatively short duration and is (in general) designed to be played by multiple people simultaneously.

Nintendo, through their DS and Wii platforms have broadened the scope of the definition to encompass more traditional types of games that don' t require large time investments and are quick and easy to pick up. Why? Because in general they cost less and so the return on investment is greater. Since they' ve been so successful, developer focus has and will continue to change, with more and more publishers making Wii a priority. It' s not as simple as developing for the machine with the largest install base because you have to factor in attach rates and work through your projected sales for each platform, but in general there will continue to be more of a shift in both the nature of content developed and platform priorities, just as long as Nintendo can maintain momentum and 3rd parties find success en mass.

Nowhere has the effect of Nintendo' s effort to revitalize the gaming market been felt more than in Japan. Their immense success with the DS platform and Brain Training games is proof that entire markets can be changed, though whether something of similar scale is possible in the west is still unknown. Nintendo has won the war one one front, ...they own Japan and that' s not going to change this generation, ...but they still have a long way to go in the rest of the world, and it' s one these fronts where their competition is strongest.

Microsoft and Sony are making (and Sony has for years) serious efforts to cater to the casual gaming audience and expand into the more casual market. Games like Singstar, Guitar Hero, Scene It and Viva Pinata Party Animals are all aimed at the same demographic Nintendo has managed to tap so successfully, but the rest of us are pretty dismissive of them regardless of quality. It' s not all baseless though as many of the titles flung together and released in a hurry to cash in on Nintendo' s newly found success can accurately be described as being shovelware. And that' s Nintendo' s problem. Most Wii games are no more deserving of merit than the hundreds of thousand of Flash games, coded in bedrooms and available to play for free on the internet.

So how long will this casual boom last? Will it mature into a wholly sustainable market? Are casual games a stepping stone that will bring the ' non-gamers' over the the more hardcore market? If these kinds of casual games weren' t behind Sony' s previous generation wins, does Nintendo really have what it takes to stay on top?

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