Win/Win/Win: A Gaming Marketing Suggestion

week, I went on a short rant about Nintendo, their blue ocean strategy and how
it has negatively impacted the gaming industry as a whole by emphasizing
simply designed, casual games over their previous, more complex “core
games.” As it turns out, this topic irks
me so much that I have decided to write this column as a follow-up on the same
topic to address one of the areas of discussion that I neglected due to space
considerations. Since we addressed the
problem last week, today it feels only fitting to propose some suggestions that
the gaming industry might do well to follow if we are ever to see innovation
and good design reign again in the increasingly fragmented gaming world. The usual disclaimers apply to the following
content: this is simply one gamer attempting to write a prince’s mirror for the
gaming industry, and you are welcome to disagree with some or all of what I’m
about to say.

order to properly answer the question of “how to make money and entice buyers
while staying true to your core fanbase,” it is necessary to take a detailed
look at the potential audiences for which a firm can produce a game. For simplicity’s sake, I feel it is now
appropriate to introduce my three categories of gamer archetypes, which,
combined, constitute the bulk of the paying audience for video games. They are the Nintendo Gamer, the Xbox Gamer and the Casual Gamer. To be clear, these
categories have little to do with the brand affinities of the gamers they
represent but instead simply reflect the fact that most fantasy games are
released on Nintendo consoles, and likewise most shooters on Xbox
variants. Now, with that out of the way,
let’s meet our three contestants, starting with the Nintendo Gamer.

Nintendo Gamer, to use some blatant stereotypes, is most often the “young at
heart” type. They grew up with video
games like Mario, Zelda and Metroid and have been around to see games evolve from eight-bit to
16-bit to 32-bit and onwards into the realms of 3D graphics. While they are certainly impressed by modern,
high-resolution graphics, they also value complex level design, compelling
stories, well-drawn art styles and a variety of gameplay perspectives, ranging
from 2D platformers to 3D exploration and shooter titles. They are loyal to their favorite series and
will usually line up weeks in advance to buy the next installment in their
favorite franchise, year after year after year.

keeping with the stereotypes, the Xbox Gamer by contrast is a true man’s man
(or manly woman). Primarily consumers of
first-person shooter titles, Xbox Gamers enjoy the empowering rush of
heroism that stems from facing hordes of aliens, zombies or their fellow Homo sapiens with a comforting arsenal
of heavy ordinance stuffed in their backpacks and weapon belts. Like any action movie enthusiast, the Xbox Gamer enjoys stunning
visuals and viscerally powerful gameplay styles, and as
long as there is enough cover to hide behind and ammo to go around, level
design couldn’t matter less to them. After
all, there’s just something childishly pleasing about separating a person’s top
half from their bottom by spraying circular saws in their general direction
from the business end of a zero point energy rifle. No joke. Go play Half Life 2 if you
don’t believe me.

we come to the Casual Gamer. To be
perfectly honest, there is a fair bit of crossover between the Xbox Gamer and
the Casual Gamer, but regardless, the breed is categorized by minimal gaming
experience and limited exposure to gaming culture. These are the people who play games socially, indulging in the occasional Guitar Hero
session or Modern Warfare 3
death match, but never lingering too long on any one console. For them, the gaming experience is a light
one—something you can pick up in an idle moment and put down just as
easily, similar to a light novel or trashy soap opera. As one can imagine, Casual Gamers know and
care very little about the subtler elements of game design, level construction and story development. If it’s light, fun and easy,
it’s the game for them. The casual
market, moreover, has a high turnover rate, and few Casuals are likely to buy
more than one or two games in a franchise before moving on to another hobby or

three of these gamer archetypes coexist and interbreed to form what we know as
the modern gaming audience. It has
become clear from the respective business models of Nintendo and Microsoft,
however, which groups are considered the most desirable customers. Casuals and the more casual of their Xbox
brethren are the customers whom software developers are currently targeting, and, to that end, the marketplace has been flooded with increasingly high-budget
casual games and shooters meant to rope in as many of the Xboxers and Casuals as
possible. Am I the only one to whom that
makes no sense? Let’s back up for a
second and apply what we’ve just learned: since the Xbox and Casual gamers are
less likely to care about or appreciate good level design, well-written stories and intricately constructed environments, why is it that all of the best-designed levels, shiniest environments and well-crafted story lines are being poured
into games whose audience is unlikely to truly appreciate them? To me, this seems like the gaming equivalent
of throwing pearls before swine.

and nasty as this may sound, the realpolitik
of the situation is that, as long as Casuals and Xboxers are being provided
with big, manly shooters that have big, manly explosions, big multiplayer maps and big power-off buttons for when real life comes calling, it’s likely that
they will continue to buy these same shooters regardless of the quality of the
level design, story or environments. Thus,
I’d suggest that you give them exactly what they ask for. Drop the budget on games for the Casual/Xbox
market while still providing them with an enjoyable military hero fantasy, and
use the short-term gains from successful marketing to the Casuals to invest in
a much more stable source of long-term income: the Nintendo Gamers. That way, the Nintendo Gamers get their
quality content, the Xbox Gamers get their explosions and the Casuals get
their quick electronic funtime. It’s a

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