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Why core gamers hate social games: because their selfish exploitation of casual gamers is coming to an end

By on March 28, 2011

In the games industry, there are two opposing business models.

  • Core games cost around $40. 90% of players never finish them. Some buy them on the strength of marketing or peer pressure, and find after an hour or so they don’t like them. Some people even buy them and *never* play them. A core audience for each game loves it and dedicates hours to it.
  • Social games are free to play. 90% of players never pay for them. A small proportion of gamers choose to spend money on progress, on instant gratification, on aesthetic improvements or on showing off. A core audience for each game loves it and dedicates money for it.

Being hit in the pocket hurts

Some dollars, yesterday

In the core games market, the casual or non-dedicated player subsidises the gaming enjoyment of the core gamer.

In the social games market, the core gamer (i.e. the players who love the game) subsidises the enjoyment of the casual player.

So what we are seeing in the social games market is that the players who love the game are actually paying for the amount of enjoyment they are getting; in the core market, the people who getting lots of enjoyment are doing so at the expense of others.

So all this hatred from core gamers about social games: are they just aware that their years of freeloading on the backs of casual gamers is coming to an end?

Thanks to @notch, @robfahey and @perrinashcroft for the Twitter threads that kickstarted this post. Particularly Rob.

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: