The usage of the terms "casual" and "core" have bothered me ever since they snuck into our gaming lexicon. They are mealy-mouthed concepts with no clear definition, no purpose other than to convince us enthusiasts of our own importance.
I was disappointed, therefore, to see the concepts legitimized in the corporate shake-up of THQ last week. The publisher has split into three different divisions, each of which will cater to different types of games - Core Games, Kids/Family/Casual Games, and Online.
Judging by comments a few weeks back from the man who is now in charge of Core Games, the change-up will divide THQ into a company with one division for Xbox 360, PS3, PSP and PC games, and another for so-called casual Wii and DS titles. Then-Senior VP of Creative Development Danny Bilson described the Wii as a "Monopoly box in a closet... You look at the Wii wall [in a game store] and you can't find anything... It's a big conglomeration of junk and the Nintendo stuff pops, and a couple of other things pop, and that's it."
Perhaps that would be junk like Neighborhood Games, Battle of the Bands or Big Beach Sports - all of which are published by THQ and have a combined Metacritic average of 50. Bilson's comment may have been more understandable if THQ had a long list of unsuccessful Wii games that really tried hard under their belt (or to put it another way, if Sega had said it). But like the majority of publishers, they have been standing around, hands in their pockets, seemingly waiting for the "hardcore" audience to materialize on Wii. Where is this audience coming to come from, if publishers just like THQ don't publish games that develop it?
It's amazing how many people, even in the industry, are willing to write off millions of prospective customers in a brushstroke. It's amazing how there can be that many potential gamers out there who are just ignored because we have no idea how to reach them. And make no mistake, that's who the problem lies with - us. The industry. Not the customers.
This argument has nothing to do with the Wii and its particular merits (nor with its long list of demerits). It's to do with the fact that people out there with their toe in the swimming pool of gaming. By forking over the $200+ needed for a console, they've put on their trunks and are ready to dive in. But we can't seem to find it in ourselves to give them that push.
Is there any industry so objectionable to growth, so hostile to newcomers as ours? We behave like schoolyard bullies, insulting the new kid for daring to come into our territory. We try to judge customers on their worthiness. They're not a "real" gamer if they don't buy 10 games a year/play 30 hours a week/make fun of Wii Fit. We don't try to classify users by what they like, we judge them on their worthiness to play "our" product.