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Casual Games: The beginning of the end for gaming?

Casual Games: The beginning of the end for gaming?

Casual Games: The beginning of the end for gaming?

Take a look through your gaming connection. Do you have any of the Guitar Hero franchise? Rock Band? Any of the Buzz games, or the Scene It? Games? I do, and yet I consider myself a hardcore gamer yet these are “casual” games. Games that you can pick up and play for 10 minutes or play for hours. Games that are primarily targeted towards people playing together, but who aren't necessarily bothered to play all the way through to the end. Rewind four or five years, and games like this were few and far between, and the main staple of games are action games, first person shooters and racing games that took months to fully complete. So why the change? 750px-nutting_computerspace-blue-screen1 Games have been constantly changing since their conception. The first “videogame” was created in 1947, and was an analogue device that allowed the player to simulate firing missiles to targets that were fixed to the screen, and things didn't change much until the 1970's. The first commercial game released was in 1971, and was called “Computer Space”. Made by the people that later went on to form Atari, and formed a multitude of games that were very similar. By the end of the 70's games like Pong were released, and in 1981, Donkey Kong. Back then, games were mainly arcade based, and definitely for the hardcore gamer. These games had incredible difficulty curves, and they needed to. The shorter the game, the more money was pumped into the machine and these games were incredible money spinners for the sites that had them. Technology progressed, and graphics got better. Games started charging more per go, and the difficulty was more lax. If you are paying 50p or £1 per go, and lasted 4 or 5 minutes then gamers would be put off. In the late '80s and early '90s along came the home consoles that could effectively compete with the arcade games, maybe not for graphical punch, but certainly for the games themselves. Arcades started to lose customers to people that were rocking the same games on Super Nintendos and Mega Drives at home. These were followed by the more powerful consoles and the gap between arcade hardware and home consoles diminished. Even the Sega Dreamcast was spawned from the NAOMI arcade board, so people really could play arcade games in the comfort of their living room , with no need to empty your pockets of 50p's. Which leads us nicely into the current generation of consoles. We have the consoles that can outdo the arcade machines, and arcades themselves are a dying breed. Arcade games are the most expensive that they have ever been, and there are less of them. This could be associated with the economic slowdown, but I think it is more due to the fact that people can buy a game as a one off, and play it as and when they want. The most popular games console is the Nintendo Wii, and the games on this machine are predominantly aimed towards casual gamers. It may not be due to the economic slowdown that less arcade games are being released, but it is certainly a no brainer that games developers and manufacturers are going to go where the money is, and that is the casual market. Gears of War is one of the best “hardcore” games of the last couple of years, and a sequel was recently released. Gears of War 2 sold over 2 million copies within its first weekend, and over 4 million copies worldwide. However Cliff Bleszinski, the lead designer, has explained that they have amended the difficulty levels to allow easier access to the GOW world for “casual” gamers. Going forward, things look bleak. Developers will look to release less original intellectual property because certainly whilst things are tight, they will gamble less on potential losses by churning out what is earning money, and right now, that is casual games. I'm not saying that casual games are a bad thing. Anything that attracts new gamers can only be a good thing, and it will pump money into an industry that has kept a smile on my face for over 20 years. I have certainly had the drunken party with everyone playing Guitar Hero, or a nice cosy Christmas eve with my family playing Scene It?, but please, developers, don't risk losing the people that made the industry what it is years before casual games became the norm simply because you are chasing the dollar. An industry that panders to the money is an industry that has no soul, and I hope never to see that. So.... what are your thoughts?

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