While not exactly a Monthly Three, let’s continue from where we left with the previous post about trying to cater to a different audience via Auto Mode. In last console generation, something that has carried to this one, is the notion of casual and hardcore gamers, something that’s more or less a stupid idea when you start looking things into bit deeper.
The market of any product does not have a clear split like that. There exists a gradual level of complexity and price in the market that aims to fulfil desires of different groups. For example, in headphones most people are fine with twenty something bucks pieces that they’ll use for a time until they break down and they need to get a new pair. Sound quality may be all over the place, but it’s cheap and does what the tin says in most cases. Then you go up to hundreds bucks range, where built and sound quality is better, but the consumer who just wants to listen without giving a damn about the higher grades of quality will put their money into something else. Then you have the high-end stuff costing thousands of dollars.
If the high-end headphones are objectively better in-built and sound, why don’t all people put their money in them? That is because the lower tier headphones are satisfactory, not all people care about being an audiophile. Consumer may obtain more knowledge on audio equipment and sound quality, but that does not necessary mean the consumer will value that knowledge. The opposite of an audiophile. Then you have in-betweens, which fall in neither audiophile or general consumer range.
The same applies to games. You have games that strike with the general audience, the simpler and more straightforward games that are easy to get into and take relatively little of your time. When you move towards the upper end of the scale, where simulators, complex game mechanics and numerous other factors in regards of the game design and development begin to stack up, you begin to reach the high-end market. This does not mean a person in high-end market is necessarily hardcore, as games like Super Mario Bros. and Tetris reside in the common consumer end of the spectrum. Games like these are through which consoles live and die by.
The core design of Platinum’s games reside in the opposite niche crowd. It’s visual style and 3D action is something the common consumer doesn’t really care for, and putting in an Auto Mode won’t change this. The game may not be at the extreme end of complex design mechanics like with some tactical RPGs or ultra realistic simulations, and stands in the middle of the scale between consumer scale.
The thing however is, just like with headphones, when the consumer begins to yearn for better sound quality, so does the want to experience more games that expand in what already exists. If a consumer enjoys something like Dragon Quest or some other simple RPG, it can be assumed that they will look into something different and something that could offer a bit more in terms of game content. He may find himself tackling more complex and demanding titles, like Final Fantasy Tactics or even jump to PC and try out Vampire: The Masquerade. It is just as possible that he does not find these titles to his liking, and finds his sweet spots in the more straightforward and undiluted gameplay experience.
However, the current market and developers seem to aim only for games that have rising development and marketing costs combined want to make high-end games, but still open for the general market. This self contradicting dichotomy yields games that may sell well, but ultimately misses both of its intended target audiences.
The Tripple A games’ development is the core problem why console and their games tend to fail nowadays. The Wii U failed because it didn’t have the library the Wii had. So-called shovelware is which keeps a console alive, as it encourages competition at higher levels. On Wii or on any other generation “winning” console you had loads and loads of games that would be called casual nowadays, like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros., yet these games were the things that sold the console. However, modern game developers tend to put their Secondary or Tertiary teams working on these games nowadays, resulting on games that simply do not cut it.
Wii Sports won the generation for Nintendo single-handedly, as it was a game that appealed to the market that had left gaming be since it began to move towards the more complex end of the consumer goods spectrum. Wii Sports was a title that was handled by the First team in Nintendo, making a game that would aim to please and sell. Nowadays, despite the moaning and bitching it caused, the game is considered a definitive classic.
Casual games are not the destruction of gaming. They are its lifeline, and the developers in the industry currently simply can’t do games like Super Mario Bros. They are stuck with one extreme end of the spectrum, desperately trying to replicate success of the other end by producing gimmicky titles and even peripherals while missing the whole point.
Comparison between Flash games and smart phone games isn’t anything new, but it shows how these games, these lower tier market games if you will, have always been around and will always exist on any platform. It was never a new trend.
The higher end of games is arguably more profitable, which is why publishers and developers push their money and workforce into those titles. However, the high end market in gaming tends to be fickle and the current trend of pushing in-game guides and modes to make the game easier tells us that the high end market is getting smaller.
The high-end market wouldn’t exist without the low-end market. By making yourself a name by releasing great titles in the lower market, you have the possibility to rise towards the other end. Remember the DS? Nintendo started the console by marketing it with N64 ports and other high end games like that. It sold poorly and it was called to be the second coming of the Virtual Boy. However, Nintendo began to release low-end games like Nintendogs. People who got DS for games like it then had the possibility to move to something like Mario Kart DS, and then to Pokémon, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy remakes. However, Nintendo did not keep the same pace with the Wii U, and it was failure.
The shovelware, as the industry wants to call their bread and butter, is the deciding factor. Hitting all the differences niches and tiers is important, as this casual gaming does not exclude passion. Someone may spend hundreds of hours on a Flash based Tower Defence game, minmaxing his defences and ripping the game a new hole.
A game that is made to be a hit to one tier can be successful with others, but it can’t be forced. A Metal Gear title won’t win any favours from the market that it isn’t aimed at. I guess I’ve made my point.
This is passion at its best, and it’s a lowly arcade game no less