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As far as I can remember, I have always had a deep love for video games. I don’t see gambling as a hobby but rather as a passionately engaging medium and a lifestyle choice that is constantly evolving from generation to generation. I don’t consider myself a fanboy either as I don’t favor one console over the other and I really keep my interests focused on the video games themselves.
Having said that, the only form of gamer that I have found to be quite interesting is the casual gamer. While being dominant for a while, recent developments have made me question the strength of this market in the future and in the next generation of consoles. Of course, to better understand what it means to be a casual gamer, you will first need a proper definition of the question.
A casual gamer is often defined as someone with limited time and interest in video games. These types of people are normally drawn to games that are easy to play and take less time than more traditional titles. Demographics have also indicated that the majority of these types of gamers are typically older women who do not own consoles. While all the facts remain obvious, these particular customers have been targeted for some time by some of the biggest brands in the industry.
When Nintendo first launched the Wii in November 2006, they made sure that these customers were their primary target audience. This console was not only meant to please their loyal fans, but also to encourage people who don’t normally play video games to try them out. The older female population that I mentioned earlier tends to care a great deal about staying in shape, so Nintendo has sought to answer that call by delivering fitness experiences on the device. They have also launched advertising campaigns featuring celebrities or famous musicians to attract this crowd even more. Soon after these tactics worked, Microsoft and Sony felt the need to add these features to their consoles in the form of Kinect and Move technology. The main goal of pursuing these customers was and always will be to show them how easy and exciting it can be to get into the game.
As casual gamers tend to only play games for short periods of time, more and more companies have started to hear about this theory and have incorporated these practices into their own business models. Browser games and Facebook games appeared out of nowhere once people started surfing the internet and social media sites more frequently. Alternatively, the Apple and Android platforms have made it easier to play games on their tablets and smartphones. With so many technologies and forms of media to consume, customers have been inundated with data and businesses have benefited from it. Then suddenly, without warning, things started to come back to reality.
Having bathed in the culture of Silicon Valley, I learned the meaning of the term bubble in relation to startups. This usually refers to a trend that is popular at the start and slowly begins to fade over time. I would classify the casual gaming market as being in this particular state of influx right now. For starters, the infamous Zynga game studio has suffered several studio closures and layoffs over the past few years. Given that they are important to Facebook, this would indicate that maybe not as many people care about games like words with friends as before.
Another example of this decline is found only at Nintendo. Once they released the Wii U, they made it clear that their goal was to attract hardcore gamers by having third-party games on their next-gen console as well. While this is a business strategy in the end, it does make it seem like they may not be entirely behind the angle of casual gamers as they once were. Unfortunately for them, these statements have had little to no effect on third-party publishers as they still don’t believe Nintendo can sell games to their type of audience. Therefore, you could say that Nintendo has cataloged itself with this Wii U version and would make a very valid point in doing so.
My personal take on casual gamers and the tendency in general is that this is a useless title to begin with. While life is far more important than video games, I think if you are a gamer you will obviously be spending time playing all the games that grab your attention. Anyone who casually plays games in general is effectively depriving themselves of the whole experience, whether it’s learning something or just relaxing after a long day at work. It’s important to remember that the medium is a form of entertainment and escape from everyday life, and sometimes we all need a break from time to time.
Check out our other articles on player archetypes and stereotypes: The Fanboy, The Unconditional player, and The player’s daughter.