Forbes: Hardcore Gamers May No Longer Be Relevant

by Blake Ellison, Sep 30, 2008 9:37am PDT

"Are hardcore gamers as relevant as they have historically been in the gaming industry?" asks Forbes columnist Chris Morris.

Morris, in turning his attention to the crowd of hardcore gamers, has clearly kept a keen eye on internet gaming discussion: "They obsess over games before they're released and then often savagely rip apart the very thing they were so eagerly anticipating. They argue passionately about the most minor of details, and they demand to be catered to by developers."

"At the risk of alienating all of the people who paid my mortgage all these years, they can't be," answers legendary game designer Warren Spector. "We are in a commercial art form, which means you have to focus on the mainstream if you are playing in that game space," added the Deus Ex director.

Moreover, gaming's biggest financial successes--Myst, The Sims, the Wii--haven't involved the hardcore at all. Morris argues that as far back as 2002, "publishers began to realize they didn't need hardcore buzz to have a monster hit."

In spite of the hardcore crowd's shortcomings, Morris concludes they're still relevant, just less so. In response to the boom of mass-market games like Wii Sports and Rock Band, the hardcore are heading back underground--and independent developers like Braid creator Jonathan Blow are following them.

"The hardcore is completely safe," asserts Spector. "They are less relevant to major publishers, but they are more relevant to independent developers."


31 Threads | 101 Comments

  • I don't understand what the fuss is all about. Hardcore Gamers are a lot like serious art film fanatics; they're hard to please, they obsess about their chosen medium and they're generally a bunch of dicks.

    And I'm one of both crowds so please don't think I don't know wtf.

    That being said, there's still a bunch of art-house movies being made. Do you think David Lynch makes money off the casual Will Smith Summer Action Movie Blockbuster crowd? No, but he still makes movies.

    There's plenty of hardcore gamers reviewing games out there who prove me right. Hell, Yahtzee's the kind of guy who, were he reviewing movies, would shit all over Children of Men because he didn't like the lens the DP used for most of the film (read: FOV setting or too much bloom or something). Of course, he'd be damn funny while he was ripping it up...

    Anyway my point is that even if major players in the industry agrees that us hardcore gamers are irrelevant to the industry that won't keep people like Stardock from cranking out the Eraserheads and the Inland Empires for us to enjoy. In the meantime, EA will be squeezing out huge, successful turds like Titanic: 2009 every year and making huge bank off the rest of the gaming crowd.

  • Why do we see so many movie, comic, music and other IP turned into games? Because the casual gamers dont expect more from games so the pubs can just strong arm the devs into making games out of whatever is hot at the time and then market the crap out of it so people will buy it *cough**Piratesofthecarribbean**cough*.

    This means the bar for real innovation and *originality* in gaming will continue to be lowered. Im not saying there arent exceptions but seriously....Does anything think that Half Life as an original IP introduced today would even appear on the radar of casual gamers?

  • I think this is the key disconnect that is the source of a lot of the "PC is dying" talk. It is possible to develop a very simple game on a relatively cheap budget that will appeal to a huge market. Just look at PopCap, for instance.

    Even if you put pure profit motivation aside though, a number of factors are converging to make "hardcore" games simply nonviable. It's just manifesting first in the PC sector because that is a smaller total audience than the console market. What you have though is gamer expectations increasing very quickly, which increases the development costs associated with making a game that can grab their attention, while the neither the price of games nor the size of the hardcore market has increased at anywhere near a proportionate pace.