"Hardcore" to "Casual" to "Hardcore" Again?

A recent interview with a dude from SEGA that I found of note, showing that Sega "gets it" to some degree, but also shows some misconception between any differences between Wii and PS3/360 audiences. Good on SEGA though considering how willing they are to take a chance on Wii and really start pushing it.

And it's a circular, almost incestuous vibe that then starts perpetuating in the industry - developers are gamers, they're making games for themselves and their friends. So you start feeding that need, and we still retain that kind of ghetto niche to it.

So barriers to entry still exist - some of them are price-driven, but I think there are some other attitudinal things in the industry that we need to stop and change about the content of the actual gaming itself.

It's been said that the number of core gamers is decreasing, and I think a lot of companies could find themselves out in the cold if they don't adjust attitudinally to servicing that market.

Darren Williams - Head of Sega A&R

He's practically on the money there. As he says, it's a perpetual cycle. You can't expect people to turn gamer overnight, or blame lack of mainstream attention on old people, when older people in spades own Brain Training and enjoy Wii Sports. To make any medium relevant, you have to make content relevant to their lives, or make it easier for gaming to fit into their lives. Games that can be enjoyed in short, 10 minute bursts are a great way of doing that, and the likes of Wii Fit and Brain Training are great as games designed to complement your life, rather than draw you away from real life. There are many people out there with aversions to fantasy, especially younger, more social people (including women). Nintendogs is very much a social thing. You can't understand Nintendogs without going out and about with it and interacting with others through it, that's just the kind of game it is.

His last point is interesting, but not quite as on the mark as the rest of it. It's less so that there's fewer core gamers, it's that the definition of core gaming is changing. Core and Expanded Audience are transient terms - core means your "old" or current mainstream audience, and Expanded Audience are the ones outside that. To understand them, you have to understand the current mainstream values, and look at what's valued outside of that traditional bracket. This means that core and expanded audience are not fixed demographics or values - they are shells to represent the current trends. Once again but a shill for Malstrom, has an article exploring the theory of cycles. In other words, detailing the different trends of gaming, and outlining the recurring change of values from the old core to the expanded audience becoming the new core.

As they say, what is "hardcore" gaming today will be the "casual" gaming of tomorrow, but the same applies in reverse - where do you think the new core comes from to replace the old one as it moves into apparently being "casual"? As core represents the current values, then obviously it has to come from somewhere new - the expanded audience.

What is the expanded audience of today will be the core of tomorrow. Don't believe me? See WoW, Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii, Wii Sports, Second Life, Battlefield Heroes ("casualised" Battlefield), flash/in-brower gaming, ....These are all gaining, while the trend of the current core is mostly declining. The expanded audience is moving toward the core. Remember when Nintendo said they were bringing about a revolution? This is it. Notice how the Wii "X" titles have been the ones for experimentation that Nintendo talked about. The Wii MotionPlus is motion control moving upmarket to meet more demanding tastes, driving out the old values of visuals and length.

Even Mario Kart, which at the end of the day is Mario Kart - a very good version of it, because it comes bundled with a steering wheel so it's a very physical experience. You aren't necessarily going to see that - I know there's been talk of Sony with a motion controller, there have been demonstrations of 360 tech, but that's slightly monkey-see-monkey-do, and it doesn't really have that tangible value to it.

So I think there's a market on the Wii for different tastes of gaming. Whether then people will graduate upwards, that's an open question. I'm sceptical about it, because I think what the Wii offers is a very physical, fun experience. Any degree of percentage from 10 to 30 to 40 per cent of the experience is the Wii remote - so I'm not so sure.

Darren Williams - Head of Sega A&R

In this particular part, both the question and the answer mix two completely opposed values between the current core and the expanded audience. If people bought the Wii for the physical experience, then logic dictates they would not be moving up to better visuals, but to better motion control. Hence, MotionPlus. MotionPlus is that move upwards, not HD visuals. The two values are opposed - no customer buys Wii for its visual experience, so it does not make sense that they would somehow jump ship. The duplicated ownership is just the most upmarket of the core - the ones who demand the most, have the most expendable income, but might also themselves as time goes on be converted to the new expanded audience values that the Wii represents.

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