“Casual” Taking a Chunk From “Hardcore”?

30 06 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/bcostin/238021681/

Ben Cousins, Executive Producer of Battlefield Heroes, claimed this week that

[the] gulf between core and casual games was akin to that of cinema and TV. And, like TV, casual is set to take a chunk out of the core market.

To quote him:

“[Like games retail] cinema is all about your week one box office,” said Cousins. “But, like casual gaming, TV is all about growing your audience over time.

“Cinema and TV now coexist,” he added. “TV didn’t kill cinema, but it took a big chunk out of it.”

Ultimatley, online and web games will “become very mainstream”, predicted Cousins, saying that games will experience the exact same things which film and music have experienced – that is, the move away from hardware-driven delivery of goods to software-driven delivery.

There are a lot of ways to nitpick his argument that I’ll avoid. The main one is that core and casual, like TV and cinema, are both very different things, and games are at a very different position to the one cinema was in when TV came along. Games haven’t yet deposed TV the way TV and radio gutted Vaudeville shows; in the present environment, all media are suddenly struggling to get to grips with digital networks.

I’m not surprised that things may look this way to Cousins from the inside of a large publisher. EA reallocated a lot of resources to the Wii and casual over the past few years, and at first had not been prepared for such a transformation in the market.

However, there’s an established market for “hardcore” games, and while casual may be growing faster at the moment because it was such a neglected market until recently, all sections of games are experiencing growth right now. The traditional gamers aren’t suddenly going to desert FPS and RTS games for Peggle, Bejeweled, or Battlefield heroes.

Cousins cites digital distribution too, and that casual games fit more easily with this, but bandwidth is going up. There are too many trends for simplistic comparisons to be useful right now.

(CC image by bcostin)

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