A year ago the runaway successes of Nintendo Wii, DS, PopCap and Flash gaming convinced a lot of people (me included) that the future of gaming would be dominated by casual games.
Recently the decline in sales of Nintendo Wii in its home market of Japan has made me reconsider that prediction. Is it possible that casual gaming has shot it's bolt and more meaty games will come back into the spotlight?
From a personal point of view I am not too surprised at the sharp fall off in Wii sales in its mature Japanese market. My daughter got one for Christmas and after the initial novelty of Wii sports wore off we quickly came to the realisation that there were very few good games for the Wii. Most of the top selling titles are party games that can be picked up quickly and are fun to play with friends but ultimately they won't hold anybodies attention for too long. Contrast that situation with my gaming PC. Many of the games I play on the PC have a steep learning curve but once you make that learning investment they can deliver hundreds of hours of entertainment.
If the decline in Wii sales is an indication of a general decline in the stock of casual gaming I wonder if this is related to the unfolding economic depression. When real life is good casual gaming provides a quick entertainment fix. When real life is tough people are prepared to invest learning time in order to get high the quality escapism that only serious gaming can provide.
EDIT: Point of clarification - I am using the general description of casual game here as being a game that requires "no long term commitment or special skills to play" (Wikipedia). I am thinking of games you can pick up and learn the ropes in five minutes. By this definition even the most casual friendly carebear mmorpg counts as hardcore.