Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hardcore Casual: A New Audience?

It's funny, as I was playing some Shadow of the Colossus the other night, I was thinking about my play style and how it meshed with Shadow's design. The game affords real progress in short segments (ie, I can usually bring down a colossus in 30 min. or so). This fits nicely in my busy, adult schedule. On the other hand, the game is involved enough to really grab me. It presents interesting and deep challenges trimmed in wonderful art direction and truly cinematic camera work. Shadow of the Colossus seems to me to be simultaneously Casual and Hardcore.

The very next day, I noticed an article in the Escapist, that addressed this issue from a demographic side. The author describes himself as "Hardcore Casual," a former hardcore gamer whose life has caught up and who can no longer devote himself to the hardcore gamer lifestyle (nor does he want to). He has the taste of a hardcore gamer, but not the time or patience (or funds). While I've never thought of myself as hardcore, I think that my tastes run beyond casual, and the term hardcore casual feels like a pretty accurate description of my approach to games. If a game doesn't grab me, I generally don't give it too much of a chance.

The big question to my mind is this: Is hardcore casual a big enough market to design and produce games for? I would like to think the answer is yes. As the first generations of gamers hit so-called maturity, I think the hardcore casual market will grow. Likewise, as gaming becomes a more prominent part of pop culture, even casual gamers will move towards the hardcore, making the hardcore casual group a pretty sweet target for gamemakers. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part (I guess it's natural to want more games for me).


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