Hardcore gaming is dead

Until recently gaming was going through a very strange phase lasting for the last ten years or so when the games that the industry produced and which the public bought became progressively more hardcore. By hardcore I mean that they were in narrow genres, were progressively more complex, were difficult for the neophyte to get into and appealed to a large but still limited demographic.

And now we have had an explosion in casual gaming. The most visible leader in this area has been Nintendo with first party games on the Wii and DS. But there has been massive growth in other casual areas such as online PC casual gaming portals and now iPhone gaming. Casual games are characterised by being easy to get into and appealing to very wide audiences.

So now video gaming is currently being perceived as being an industry of two parts. Hardcore and casual. But this is very wrong because what is happening is that we are going through a phase. And that phase is just a growing pain as video gaming matures as a mass  entertainment media. We have the advantages of interactivity, connectivity and non linearity that will see us become the largest entertainment media in the world. But first we have to learn to give the customer what the customer wants and we are still very early in the learning curve of knowing how to do this.

What will happen is that the existing hardcore genres will continue. But they will become less obtuse and more user friendly. They will learn lessons from the current casual craze and borrow many of its features. And there will be a blossoming of new genres (this is already happening) that will provide all things to all people. Technology like XNA and Flash will provide some of the mechanics for this outpouring of creativity.

So hardcore as we know it will no longer exist. Instead there will be shades of grey between the two extremes of what are just now known as hardcore and casual. Game makers will be free to pick and mix features and benefits in a far more creative way to pitch at exactly the level of complexity, user friendliness etc that they want for that particular game for the audience they want to reach.

It is only after this step has been made that the industry will be able to fulfill its destiny. We are still at the very beginning of what video gaming will achieve and we have a lot to learn on the path to getting there.


  1. This is the third article regarding the divergence of ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ that I’ve read in the past couple of days, pleasing to see this opinion being widespread.

    Many sequels now have reached the point where after years of adding more and more layers of gameplay complexity, somethings gotta give. This is why the latest iterations of Metal Gear Solid and GTA have been forced to streamline their core mechanics. It makes it better for the player too as well.

  2. Hold on a minute, in your last update you say that Microsoft should charge £100 per year for a ‘platinum’ version of xbox live, and now here you are with an article about how hardcore gaming is dead…

  3. This parrot has ceased to be!

  4. It wouldn’t voom if you put 10 000 volts through it!

  5. For someone so involved in the gaming industry, you know nothing, Bruce. How can you say that hardcore games will become “less obtuse?”

    There will always be the hardcore games that take a decent amount of time and effort to learn how to play. That’s what’s so appealing to me (and IMO many other hardcore gamers); not everyone can just sit down and play the game. It takes more than a minimal amount of effort.

    And for the record, the Wii sucks.

  6. Very nice to see that you recognize this as a “phase” issue. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Bruce, and I hope people on both ends see that hardcore gamers and casual gamers are really the same (and by extension, all PEOPLE). They are merely at different phases along the lifespan of a “gamer”.

  7. this is no phase, it’s a mistake is what it is.

  8. If you guys really understood what “hardcore games” used to be like in the late 80s and earlier 90s, you would know that they have already become far more obtuse than they used to be.

    Name any “hardcore” game from the last couple of years. MGS4, GTA4, CoD4, GoW2, Bio Shock, Mass Effect… all also ironically FPS of some kind, but if you took ANY hardcore gamer from the 80s and showed them this game, the last thing they’d think is “wow this is so hardcore, I can’t handle it!”.

    It would actually be the opposite. They’d be impressed by how much easier it is to access and play the games compared to what used to be “hardcore” back then.

    It’s history. It’s factual.
    And It’s a phase issue.

  9. Brucey, Brucey, Brucey…
    You really need to open up your eyes. Hardcore gaming ISN’T dead. More people are hardcore gamers. From jocks [whom used to laugh at the matter of being a “video game nerd”] to celebrities [hey, Mr. T’s doing it]. Look at the amount of people on WoW, or maybe playing CoD4 (to this day!).
    Its not that hardcore gaming is dead, more like… it slept with a girl and was murdered in a drive-by the next night, later found that his strict Catholic girlfriend was pregnant, and she gave birth to a new Harcore gaming, that more people wanted to play.
    But the real question is, who is the mother?

  10. I don’t see them dissapearing anytime soon.
    At best, they’ll get watered down with friendly difficulty levels, more savings, maybe some customization (and that’s clearly not a given), but with core mechanics still playable on hard.

    If anything, the arrival on violent core games on the Wii will probably mix both niches and bridge them. In no way this would kill the hardcore segment.

    @ Orakga

    I grew with these games from the 80s and 90s.
    They’ve become more complex and prettier, but at their core, they’re still intense, difficult and require great determination and dedication.

    The mere difference being the growth of dofficulty settings, and then dynamic systems. Other than that, if you want to play God of War on smack my bitch up level, you’re clearly going to hammer controllers through walls.

    And people in their fifties and those grannies playing Wii Sport are not the kind to put a finger on a mouse and play Quake. I don’t see this happening anytime soon. If it happens, it will just prove that people move more freely between genres, but said genres will still be present and fit for all tastes.

    It would be dramatic for the industry if all games had to be cut in the corners to pull them together towards some sort of soft middle field.
    Truly, this would be disastrous on all fronts.

    I don’t even see hardcore gamers dissapearing. If pro gaming gains even more momentum, the exact opposite would actually occur.

  11. Bruce, I agree that the continuum between casual and hardcore games will become broader in the future. However, it seems to me that hardcore games will thrive in the future and that the hardcore demographic will expand over time as the overall gamer market continues to expand.

    As casual gamers mature, the demand for more sophisticated, complex, and immersive games will explode. Well-designed difficulty is a good thing in games — it is part of the immersive element that experienced gamers seek out.

    In short, I think the current explosion of casual gaming is the harbinger of a future hardcore bonanza.

  12. I tend to agree. I think we are already seeing the growth of adjustability. We are going more the ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ route. It lets you jump in and get going easily, but for those that desire it there’s a lot of tweaking, finite controlling, and customizing to be done.

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