Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sony, Microsoft have Barred the Gates

Sony and Microsoft have effectively barred the gates from people buying their consoles, because they have tauted the HDTV capabilities so much, the average consumer thinks he needs an HDTV (a whole new expense factor) in order to enjoy an XBOX 360 or PS3.

As an employee at a video game store, I get questions asking about the graphical differences between the current and next-gen consoles occasionally.

Every once in awhile, a customer will try and "confirm" with me that you can't tell the difference between current and next-gen games without an HD television.

It comes in different forms but it is a perception among some uneducated casual gamers that you need an HDTV to enjoy the 360 or PS3. They're wrong of course but it is something that has been created amongst some because of all the "HD" marketing of the 360 and PS3.

[source] Around 30% of the TV owning populace have some form of HDTV now, which is not a lot. I know that one thing that has occured to me is that if I got a PS3 or XBOX 360 I would have to hook it up to an LCD computer screen, because there's no way I'm paying thousands more for something else that doesn't last as long as a computer LCD display, or a $2,000 LCD TV. And I'm not sure PS3's hook up to computer LCD's...

The Wii, meanwhile, has stayed accessible - possibly too much. Many Obsessive / Hardcore Gamers view it with distain, but others are jumping in.

What are Hardcore and Casual Gamers?

Folks assume that the hardcore is all that matters, or that the hardcore is all that can support the videogame industry, but the changing market tells us this isn't so, as well as some basic math and common sense. Avid moviegoers do not outnumber casual moviegoers, nor can our numbers save movies we love (Serenity) compared to the all powerful might of the masses. This same truth of human nature (obsessives versus casuals) is true in gaming.

Games Sorted by Score on Metacritic

  • Wii 9 bad, 28 okay, 8 good.
  • PS3 2 bad, 12 okay, 20 good.
  • XBOX 360 9 bad, 80 okay, 80 good. (Odd, same number good and okay, but I double checked, and that's accurate)
What These Figures Mean
I find it interesting that the XBOX 360 has racked up as many bad games (listed in Metacritic) in 16 months as the Wii has in 4, and that the PS3 (which has been out almost exactly as long as the Wii has) has 60% more good games than the Wii, and 22% of the Wii's bad games amount.

My theory is that game developers are having an easier time grappling with familiar (traditional) consoles, and that the casual games coming out for the Wii are ill received by hardcore gamers. Basically, developers are still figuring out how to use the Wii's control scheme to make fun game and nobody has made a Wii game that can keep the Hardcore Enthusiasts happy, except Nintendo with "Zelda: Twilight Princess."

Now the inevitable question comes... "If the Wii is doing so poorly with its games, why does it continue to sell so well?"

The Answer Is:
The answer isn't "People are stupid and they'll wake up soon and the Wii will die." The answer is "Because there are so many more casual gamers than hardcore gamers like to think, it really doesn't matter. They are legion, and they will crush you."

The Reason Behind The Answer Is:
Casual Gamers are those that buy 4-6 games a year on average. Hardcore Gamers are those that, as soon as they beat one game (which takes them little time), they buy another, and so they buy 12 or more games a year. If you buy this much, you are hardcore. If you would buy this much but you have to eat, you are hardcore. If that really seems like a waste of money, but you love a good game, you are casual. If you can spend 100 hours on one game you love, but you don't bother reading about every new game that comes out, you are casual. If you read exhaustively everything about games even if you don't own a system (or exclusively read about every game for "your" console), you are hardcore.

Wake up, my fellow Hardcore, we are only about 15% of the gamer population.

Hardcore Gamers versus Casual Gamers... Casual Wins:
Lets take 100 gamers. 15 are HARDCORE, and 85 are casual. Over the course of the year, assuming each HARDCORE gamer buys 12 games, and each casual gamer buys 5, what do we have?
  • 15 HARDCORE gamers out of 100 total gamers will buy 180 games in one year.
  • 85 casual gamers out of 100 total gamers will buy 425 games in one year.
  • HARDCORE gamers account for 34% of all games bought in one year. Casual gamers account for 66%.
The Myth that there are More Hardcore than Casual Gamers is a Lie Because:
Now, my math is fictional. I don't have the exact ratio of HARDCORE to casual gamers. But think of cars - some people are seriously freaked out about their cars. They buy chrome parts, wash them and take them to shows, read car magazines, collect car memorabilia and watch car shows. Most people just drive their cars, or love the one car they are in. What is their percentage versus the car enthusiasts?

Human nature stays constant over the course of our short lives - evolution takes longer. It follows that gamers show a similar trend of obsessive gamer and casual gamer as car lovers follow a similar trend of obsessive and casual car lover (versus people who, you know, drive something). Most people who love their cars don't subscribe to car magazines, let alone anything else.

Hardcore Gamers is a bad term, we are Obsessive Gamers:
We aren't hardcore, we are obsessive. That is what we do. Hardcore just sounds cool, and casual doesn't, hence my homo-italics. By definition, the obsessives of any product industry are not the majority, we are the overly vocal minority. Up until now (the Wii), most game systems have completely catered to the obsessive gamers, and now they have figured out that casual gamers make money too.

Does this spell DOOM for the obsessive gamer? Not really, because games casual gamers like, obsessive gamers also tend to like; however, an obsessive gamer needs deeper layers in a game to keep him busy and coming back for more, but both appreciate an approachable game.

Hardcore Gamers are really obsessive gamers, and Casual Gamers outnumber them. We are witnessing a changing market, and no matter what vitriole we spew out, it's going to keep changing. I hate to use the pun, but the revolution is here, and now that companies have seen money, it's not going to stop.