Casual gaming is on the rise. That’s a fact. You can see this not only by the success of the Nintendo Wii, which is built on casual gaming, but also the success of games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Singstar. The question now is how much of a lurch towards casual will Sony and Microsoft take the PS3 and Xbox? And how much that will influence the games industry for the future?
Nintendo has done a fantastic job this generation, making the Wii and DS accessible and playable by all ages and demographics of people. We’ve already seen how both Sony and Microsoft are trying to grab a piece of the action by developing their own motion sensing controllers in an attempt to rival the Wii Remote. And this kind of move is only likely to increase in occurrence.
I read an interesting piece on GigaOM yesterday which postulated the theory that casual gaming is the future, and rather than the Wii being the cause, Grand Theft Auto IV is the real culprit. In essence its failure to sell in anywhere near the same levels as the last game, as well as its failure to increase sales of either the PS3 or Xbox 360 platforms in any real quantity could spell trouble.
Grand Theft Auto 4 has so far sold just over 9 million copies, but GTA: San Andreas, only released on the PS2, sold 21.5 million copies. Sure, there are a couple of factors to consider: the amount of Playstation 2 owners at the time of San Andreas’ release, and the fact that GTA 4 will continue to sell for the next few years to new PS3 and Xbox 360 owners.
However, the game has so far failed to really increase sales of either console, with the Wii managing to still beat both by a huge figure in both April and May.
The writer of the GigaOM article predicts that this will mean the big-budget games stop getting made, and that low-budget games will now be the driving force of the industry, with big returns from a much wider audience.
There’s no doubt that the industry is becoming more mainstream and casual by the day. While I believe there will still be a market for the more hardcore element, I firmly believe that for the sake of profits, console manufacturers and games developers will slowly but surely change their focus.
Casual is now king, whether you like it or not.