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Core is to casual games as cinema is to TV

By on June 24, 2008
FlickrCC by Hobvias Sudoneighm reports a senior Electronic Arts executive saying that the relationship between casual games and core games is akin to that between TV and cinema.

Ben Cousins, Executive Producer of Battlefield Heroes (a game which is an interesting hybrid, taking a core brand into a cartoony, free-to-play, casual title) spoke at the Paris Games Developer Conference. He said that core games are like cinema: the opening weekend is all. In contrast TV – and casual games – develop their audience over time.

He argues that casual games will become the mainstream of games in spite of, or maybe because of, their “convenient and cheap distribution, lower screen resolution and less immersive features”.

I entirely agree with him. We have as an industry chased a shibboleth that puts graphic fidelity and production values as the Holy Grail.

This is the model of the blockbuster movie.

Television, while still seeking high quality, tends to put less money into special effects, and more focus on scripts, characterisation and, critically, enduring appeal.

Also, once you are watching a film, you are committed (unless you walk out). Film makers know this, and are prepared to consider a slow start to film. In television, where changing channel is a press of button away, shows have to grab you in the first 30 seconds.

In games, this might produce some interesting paradoxes. Casual gamers are, by definition, less hardcore. They need more handholding, more help. Yet they are unlikely to sit through a half-hour tutorial in the way that a core gamer who has just spend forty quid on a new title will.

Similarly, casul games will need to space out their high points through time, perhaps considering how to work in the TV equivalent of “seasons” and how to end each episode or season on a cliffhanger to keep users wanting more.

I think that increasingly, this analogy will be useful to game designers in the online world. We are not chasing the next Iron Man movie – we want to become Heroes, House, Skins or Eastenders.

And that’s an entirely different approach to the one we’ve been taking to date.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: