Friday, April 24, 2009

How Simple Business Common Sense will kill Casual Gaming.

Two days ago I wrote a piece surmising that the current casual gaming craze may be coming to an end. Today another "Serious games are dead, Nintendo will rule us all" article gets slashdotted and in a bizarre co-incidence yesterday I had to sit through a business meeting where a potential investor assured us we were all going to be rich if we could only come up with innovations which help competitors ape Nintendo's success with non traditional gamers. (This was a bizarre co-incidence because I didn't think I worked in the games industry).

So was my surmising no more than wishful thinking?

The business case for casual games seems incontestable. Wii, DS, PopCap have all shown the profits that can be made. Common sense dictates that the potential customer base for casual games is far larger than for serious games. There may only be a hundred million serious gamers on the planet even using the very loose definition of serious gamer as being anyone who ever played a video game that took longer than 5 minutes to learn. In contrast there are over 6 billion potential casual gamers. It's a no brainer, right?

However this simple analysis overlooks the huge difference in consumption habits between the casual gamer and the serious gamer. The casual gamer is a one time customer. They will get a Wii with Wii Sports and some singy dancy jumpy game, have a blast playing them for a while before getting bored and moving on. For the serious gamer gaming is a lifestyle. They are repeat customers who come back again and again. This is why I think the news about falling sales of Nintendo Wii in its most mature market (Japan) is significant. The Wii lacks longevity. It lacks longevity specifically because it went after the casual gamer.

Screwing over your core customer base in the tenuous hope of being able to capture and hold onto "the masses" is a bad business proposition. Remember the debacle of "New Coke" .

3 comments:

Anton said...

I was excited about Wii when it was new, but then I realized most of the games were aimed at kids and I regretted buying it for a little while.

They recently put out a few new rpg's though, and I'm getting into it again.

Looking at numbers, I've definitely spent more on Wii than on PC games in the last 2 1/2 years...probably over $700 on Wii, and maybe $250 on World of Warcraft...

I played more WoW, though.

mbp said...

Would you reccommend one of those RPGs Anton? I have nothing against the Wii itself its just the all the games we have got so far have been very insubstantial. I'd like to give it another chance with something meatier.

Tesh said...

If the company gets its revenue stream from the product, what's the trouble? Games in general are nto built for the long haul, hardcore or casual. Sure, there are the WoW addicts, but by and large, most games are *consumed*, and only generate revenue for a window of time in the first place.

You can't easily build a sustainable business model on either the hardcore or the casual, in other words; they are all consuming, not building relationships of service. If you can stay ahead of the consumption, you're doing well.

Oh, and the hardcore players tend to be the most fickle, when it comes to brand loyalty. They consume games and move on, like locusts. If you can't stay ahead of them with more carrots, you're going to lose them to the next flavor of the month. Casual players also have gaming ADHD, but they are also the least likely to indulge in the secondary market, if that's a concern. *shrug*