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" .