The Future Of PC Gaming Is Not Casual

The Escapist article The Future Of PC Gaming Isn't You simultaneously contains one of the most true and one of the most false statements I can recall recently about this whole "casual gaming" thing that, like wireless technology, people just won't shut up about.

The most true is this:

"Casual gaming is not a demographic, it's a behavior."

Thanks to Alex St. John, CEO of WildTangent for that pearl of wisdom that gives the lie to just about everything every other pundit on the planet, as well as Nintendo's marketing department, is saying when they suggest that casual gaming is a separate market, a larger market, or a growing market, by pointing out that people who game are the market, and that casual gaming is something people in that market do-- just as hardcore gaming is. They are not separate. There is so much overlap that to talk about it in terms of market segments and market growth is extremely, extremely misleading.

The most false is this:

While monetarily smaller, it's also indisputable that this sector is numerically far larger, with more than 150 million people worldwide playing free casual games via the internet. It's not the future of PC gaming, it's the present. The dollars just haven't caught up yet, but they will.

The emphasis is mine, as that is where I believe the falsehood lies. That assertion seems to come only from the article's author, Richard Aihoshi, although it might just as easily have been from the Casual Game Association, the source for the statistics. The reason why it is false is pointed out, again, by St. John:

"...consumers will [overwhelmingly] choose 'free' content over paid..."

Therein lies the secret of the so-called "casual gaming demographic" and its superior numbers. They play Freecell and Minesweeper because they are free. They buy the Wii instead of the PlayStation 3 at least in part because it's less than half the price.

There are other factors to be sure, but to ignore these is suicide. The gaming industry is not insane to keep pouring millions into titles that cater to the hardcore, because those people pay out cash for new consoles every few years and AAA titles at $60 a pop-- not to mention peripherals. None of the "casual gamers" being catered to are ever going to do that, because there's no kind of experience you can offer them that they can't get for free somewhere else.

I don't think there's any price any casual game can fetch to generate revenue higher than the blockbuster titles. That may be unfortunate, but I think it's true.



I just read this, right after reading this recent news article:

Nintendo is running into problems with their 'casual gamer' market because they don't want to buy games.