“You should play this game,” I said to my roommate. “You would like the story.” She told me no, she doesn’t like games where she has to ‘do things’. She prefers casual games like Kim Kardashian on her phone. In fact, the only ‘legitimate’ games I’ve gotten her to play were visual novels, a genre that is very text and story heavy with little gameplay.
My roommate is one of the millions in a new generation of gamers.
As mobile games become more profitable, a new wave of casual gamers is coming in: those who enjoy mobile games but aren’t ready to jump into harder genres. These are the people that are only playing either on a commute or those who maybe played a game or two as kids, but never made games into a lifestyle.
When I say a new generation, I don’t mean a younger market. These are people who are in older generations and discovered games through their mobile phones. These people might be interested in going a little farther into gaming on a computer that they already own, but aren’t ready to spend $300 on a system designed for other gamers.
But the primary difference between casual games for a mobile phone and higher-intensity games goes deeper than difficulty settings.
Why would someone play Mario Run but turn their nose up at Super Mario Bros.? It starts with difficulty – Nintendo designed Mario Run to play using only one hand, where Super Mario Bros. has a scale of difficulty that slowly gets harder as one advances in the game. Conversely, Mario Run generally stays about the same difficulty level, but also isn’t hard to master.
The main reason people want casual games is because in games like Kim Kardashian, you cannot lose. Your rank may go rock bottom and the game may not reward you, but failure is impossible. In some mobile games, you can lose a level, but you can always retry it with no repercussions.
This is not the case in more advanced games. In games like Dark Souls and Fire Emblem, the player’s death means the end of the game: Not just the level, but the game. You will start from the beginning of the game all over as if you never started in the first place.
Simplicity in the difficulty is not exclusive to mobile games. People know traditional games, like Animal Crossing, as easy and casual games. In addition, Fire Emblem recently added Phoenix Mode to its games, where any characters that died now return to battle at the next turn.
Casual games are finding a place in traditional games in hopes of attracting this new market of mobile players. For example, the new Nintendo Switch doesn’t face competition from other consoles, but from the iPad.
Should we be afraid of this shift to casual play?
Not necessarily. Casual games are becoming more common, but Nintendo isn’t forgetting its dedicated players. They continue to release remakes of classic games, including Mega Man and old-school Zelda, to appeal to gamers who miss a raised difficulty.
As gamers, we need to be excited for a new influx of hobbyists, even if they are casual. After all, more people coming into the market means increased revenue so game companies will continue making games.
Besides, the existence of easier difficulties doesn’t mean you have to play them. It just means you can welcome new fans to your favorite games.