Sony's President believes that social and casual games aren't going to replace traditional gaming models.
Ever since the Wii proved that games aimed towards casual audiences could be hugely popular, perhaps even more popular than traditionally hardcore games, the industry has been trying to find ways to take advantage of social and casual gameplay elements. For some publishers, adapting to such changes is not an easy process, notably Sony, who prefer to cater to hardcore gaming markets. To Sony President Jack Tretton, the rationale for this is that social and casual games are a temporary trend that will eventually turn back around to favor hardcore experiences.
"[Social and free-to-play] is a business I think a lot of companies are learning is difficult to sustain for the long term," Tretton explained. "It's an adjunct or it's an add-on, but it's not where gaming is headed. It's an addictive diversion. There's a place for social and freemium, but it's not going to replace the business models that are out there."
Sony has been criticized for a heavy reliance on traditional game publishing models, but Tretton notes that Sony's cyclical popularity implies that hardcore audiences are a more reliable market. From Sony's height during the PS2 era, to its shaky PS3 launch, to its slow rise again in hardcore prominence, proves to Tretton that traditional markets make for a stronger foundation than a temporary resurgence of casual markets. "I think it tends to go in cycles," Tretton said. "If somebody comes out with a game people enjoy, it draws people to that genre. Shooters have been bigger the past few years. I think they're not just the same game done with a different storyline, they're taking that genre and expanding on it. ... Sometimes racing is really relevant. Sometimes it's not. The same thing happens with sports, or RPGs. ... I don't think our industry is any different. [In any form of entertainment], you're going to get a herd mentality moving to where the consumer is."
While I think it's hard to claim that casual markets are impermanent compared to hardcore markets, there is some truth to the cyclical nature of the games industry. Even now, new gamers that were introduced to the hobby through casual titles are slowly transitioning to traditional genres. However, that doesn't change the fact that even if the games stay the same, the platforms are facing fierce resistance, especially in handheld markets. Whether Sony can remain relevant using dedicated gaming devices remains to be seen.
Source: Games Industry International