Has Nintendo killed hardcore gaming?

The casual genre is killing hardcore gaming as we know it. We chart the rise of the mass-murderers: the Nintendo Wii and DS.

"Nothing lasts forever. Nobody lives forever. Everything comes and goes. We all begin and rise and fade away...What then?"
— Edward Abbey

You never see it coming. One day, you’re happily swanning about in flannel shirts or cargo pants, the next; your favourite trend is yesterday’s fading fad. It happens to everyone sooner or later; from swingin' fondue enthusiasts to chubby Beanie Baby chasers. No matter how popular a hobby might be, it always reaches its use-by date eventually — and hardcore gaming is no exception.

‘Hardcore gaming’ is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot by the press. It has been used to describe everything from friendless videogame addicts to diehard MMO fans (some would argue these are one and the same). In the context of this article, the phrase refers to all types of gaming other than the ‘casual/party’ genre... which just so happens to be the cause of hardcore gaming's demise.

As much as games journalists refuse to admit it, hardcore gaming is definitely on the wane, to be replaced by its simpler, party-prone brother (i.e. the other ‘C’ word.) The rise of the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS has irreversibly changed the video game landscape, with Sony and Microsoft clamouring to follow suit. We’re entering a new, casual era that we’ve coined ‘Nu N-Gaming’ — and no amount of kicking or screaming is going to alter its indomitable course.

The resurgence of casual gaming is indelibly tied to the new wave of game peripherals. From chick-friendly sing-alongs to the genre-crossing Guitar Hero, every hit franchise in the casual genre has an extraneous gadget to thank. But Nintendo has decided to take this concept to a whole new level — its Wii and DS consoles have all the hallmarks of a game peripheral, built directly into the hardware. Call it a fad or a gimmick if you will, but this is exactly what the masses want — and they’re gatecrashing the party in their millions.

Nintendo’s “come one, come all” approach to gaming has revolutionised our once-insular industry, with grannies, girlfriends and non-gamers all getting in on the action. The sales figures speak for themselves. According to GFK Australia, nine of the 10 best-selling games in 2008 were Nintendo exclusives. Almost all of these were party/casual games, with the top slot held by Wii Fit.

The same data reveals that the 'family genre' was the biggest mover-and-shaker, with a whopping 157 per cent sales increase over the previous year. The only non-Nintendo title to break into the top 10 was GTA IV — which only managed to place fifth. Given the hysterical press coverage that game’s sales figures received, you’d expect it to be ranked much higher. Such is the clout of the Nu N-Gamer.

And it’s not just Aussies jumping on the casual bandwagon: the same statistics are repeated all over the world, with sales charts dominated by scores of novice-friendly Wii and DS titles. Not only has Nintendo won the console war, it’s successfully committing genocide on its enemies. Is it any wonder that Sony and Microsoft have decided to join the winning side? While they still pay lip-service to the hardcore contingent, both companies are gagging to emulate Nintendo’s runaway success. They want in on the Nintendo gravy train, and hardcore gaming is about to take a backseat as a consequence.

Over the past few months, there have been rumblings from both camps about the need to tap into the mainstream market. In a recent interview with VG247, SCEA hardware marketing boss John Koller admitted that Sony’s future focus would be on casual gaming: “We’re moving on now... to look at softer brands that maybe we had with PS2 franchises. There’s certainly a line-up of very strong family-friendly titles that we’re looking at for PS3 in our continuing effort to appeal to that casual consumer.”

Former Xbox boss David Moore has also weighed in on the subject, revealing Microsoft's plans to replicate (sorry, “improve upon”) the Wii formula: “I think they're doing that [introducing motion control] and I think Sony are probably the same.” (Gametrailers.com). It would seem that all the major players are moving towards family-friendly properties, which continue to sell like proverbial hotcakes. So where does this leave the hardcore gamer?

Tags games consolesgameswiiXBox 360nintendo dsPS3

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Chris Jager

GamePro Australia




Re: How Nintendo Killed Gaming

Nah. They didn't kill gaming. They just changed/modified the perception of what video gaming is.

I dunno, just personal opinion, but I don't think that "hardcore" gaming has changed that much. Probably at the same rate of production as it ever was. The only thing that's changed is the introduction of a "non-hardcore" audience. A very large "non-hardcore" audience.

I think it's just indignation over the fact that where before, they were big fish in a small pond, they are now feeling like small fish in a large ocean. And, that the new audience is getting more stuff on a consistent basis than they ever did. Now? They'll probably freak out even more, what with (according to this little article) the idea that MS and/or Sony might be jumping on the bandwagon too.

Those guys are probably going: "But it's all shovelware/mediocre/minigames (a.k.a. games hardcore gamers wouldn't touch with a thousand foot pole), and look how many new games these casuals are getting and how many new games WE get! It's not fair!"



How Nintendo killed hardcore gaming

Nah... They have just given casual gaming a boost. I just don't see hardcore gaming dying like the RPG's did after PS1 era. There might be 50-60 million Wii's out there, but if you combine PS3 and 360 sales, then collectively you end up with a similar number. It's game on.

As much as I want to believe you, I just don't see FPS and action filled games bow down to casual mario games. It's looking bleak right now, but it's only a matter of time before all Wii casual users realize that Hardcore gaming just offers much more than normal casual stuff. HCG adds re-playability, it gives scope for awesome EPIC story (like MGS4) and sequels!!!

Also, even if Nintendo wanted to, they just don't have the raw first party support like Sony does. It's just a phase as I would like to put it.
Yes, Wii has won the next gen war, but I do have a gut feeling that Wii owners will like to migrate after a years time as the Wii has terrible software support.

Even Nintendo will have to cater the hardcore audience if they want to keep their lead. The 2nd Wii will have to do the same as well.



Yeah, this commenter is right

Hardcore gamers are just babies about others coming into the hobby.

Personally, I like to game casually, but I like all genres. I'll admit, the flood of samey shooters were getting incredibly stale. I've had a blast with some of the new "casual" games. I love Guitar Hero/Rock Band as well as Wii Fit and Sports. I'm also thrilled that people who used to turn their noses up at gaming are now sitting beside me on the couch asking for another go.

No, Nintendo recognized that hardcore sales growth had peaked and that the industry needed an infusion of "fresh blood". Now that we've got it, I think we'll see ALL types of gaming continue to grow. Sure, maybe the FOCUS has changed for some companies, but if people continue to buy "generic shooter X" and "generic sandbox game Y", they'll keep making them, so hardcore gamers who play the same 4 genres ad nauseum need not get their panties in a bunch.



Nobody is making you pley it

The only way Nintendo could kill the casual gamers, is if they put a gun in your head, force you to play all the shovelware that's avaliable on the wii, and burn all the PS3 and 360 on the world.

But's not the case, so you can play all the bloody (literally, it's the actual definition of "hardcore" games, or so it seems) hardcore games you want to play, it's your money, isn't it?. Forgive Nintendo for giving childrens and parents a console to play.



Hardcore games were a big fish...

... in a small pond. Now they are a small fish in a big lake.

Be like the Marine Corps: improvise, adapt overcome.




Were all these comments written by the same person or just several very unoriginal people?



How about no..

The ONLY reason Wii Sport is the 'best-selling' game of all time is cos its been bundled with pretty much every single Wii console that's been sold.




'Hardcore' games haven't gotten any smaller. It's more like taking the biggest fish out of the pond and tossing it in a lake - it only looks smaller by comparison.



You sir are a dumbass.


Please fire this dumbass for not having a clue wtf he is talking about.

Thank you,




Cry me a river.

All true. But pardon me for not feeling sympathetic; roughly 10 years ago your FPSs and MMOs killed my CRPGs.

What goes around, comes around. :-)



This is retarded.

Casual gamers wouldn't be hardcore gamers if there were no systems like the Wii or the DS. It'd just mean they didn't play any games at all and were less likely to become more serious gamers.

It's called 'target audience', dude. Game companies like to have them when they're making games. And as it so turns out, not everyone wants to play 'hardcore' games with douchebags who get angry about something totally unrelated to them.



what is with

all the poorly researched articles being written on gaming blogs this week? first it was the bold declaration that "PENNIES-ARCAED IS TEH DOOMED!!!1" and now this.

there's something missing from the author's analysis: THE ECONOMY. right now it's way too risky (and inefficient) to dump a lot of money into making AAA titles. devs are consolidating and merging faster than you can say "AIG". publishers are closing up shop at an alarming rate.

i'm amused by this armchair analysis blaming Nintendo for the death of gaming. if anything, Nintendo's keeping gaming *alive*, given the difficult economic situation.

why does gaming "journalism" have to be such a joke?



Not long ago "hardcore gamers" meant people who made playing, discussing and collecting video games a primary hobby of theirs, regardless of the platform or the genres they were interested in.

Last generation "casual gamers" meant people who were not interested in the gaming universe as a whole, but enjoyed a few specific titles of certain genres, like someone who had an Xbox mainly for Halo and Madden, or kept a DS for Brain Age and Tetris, and played games as a tertiary hobby rather than their main past time.

More and more recently it seems all it means to be a "hardcore gamer" is to play high testosterone action, sports, and shooter games with T and M ratings and to eschew anything outside that narrow window as being "kiddie", "casual", or "novice oriented".

I don't like how much of the community is getting into a mindset where someone is perceived as being "less of a gamer" if they own a DS or Wii.

When people accuse the Wii and DS of being casual-only systems with nothing to offer to "real" gamers and I can right off the bat name more than 20 games on each system that are through and through the types of games that we've been praising and enjoying for years (shooters, platformers, strategy, music, racing, RPGs, adventure), what is says to me is that some people just don't care enough to actually realize that there's more to Nintendo's systems than Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

I have friends who refuse to even consider buying a Wii because it's "casual", yet never heard of Metroid Prime 3. Come on. :|



Think of it as evolution in action

This is the way of most things. My first computer was only sold in kit form, my dad had to show me how to use a solder iron before I could assemble it, then came the prebuilt 8-bit micros, using those, effectively, meant using a cli and having programming ability. Finally we got the GUIs and pretty much everyone could use 'em.
Same with radio transmitters, there weren't even kits for the early ones just blueprints, then HAM and finally CB for the masses.
The point is that technical niches tend to get either "dumbed down" or "opened to the masses" depending on your POV.
None of these technical evolutions have stopped me programming in machine code or breaking out the soldering iron on occasion. Wii sports and party games won't stop me playing Half Life either.



Hardcore has always been a niche key demographic with mainstream marketing. Only 11% of gamers are hardcore. A niche market is what those games deserve.

Because the focus will move away from hardcore games, this will allow the indie developers to have a chance at creating some really nifty hardcore titles. You know, something to get excited about, which I haven't been for several years.

I was a hardcore gamer for more than a decade, but I got tired of the same old crap. So I started seeking out more and more bizarre titles.



Loose definitions...

<em>Sims 3</em>, casual...! I'm sorry, but given the hours that people churn into their little people, it's anything but "casual".

I'm happy for you to say it ain't hardcore, but it sure as eggs is eggs ain't "casual".



This article is mistaken.

I agree with the prior comments explaining why this article has it wrong. Media types love to say "X will kill Y." That's almost never true because X is rarely a complete substitute for Y.

Did WoW, which is massively successful, prevent Blizzard from making SCII or Diablo III? No, both are in the works now. A better claim would be that "casual games will impact and perhaps inhibit the market for other cames." There, I think the article would be dead-on.

There will likely always be people who prefer games like Castlevania, FF, GTA, Halo, Call of War, etc., to the Rockband, Guitar Hero, DDR, Wii Sports, etc. games. Where there are those who prefer a product, products will be made. Not everyone can -or wants- to compete in the mainstream market.




What is with all of the comments. This article is exactly how I feel about the current gaming market. His points about "hardcore" games not selling on the Wii was only to reinforce that it's a casual console. Which it is. And apparently, the casual market makes them a lot of money, and -- like any company -- Sony and Microsoft care more about reaping income than producing quality products. They can just keep on cranking on Wii Sports spin-offs, Imagine Party Babiez, and Nintendogs and drown in a sea of money. The economy makes this even more severe, because now fewer people can even afford to buy PS3s or decent 360 SKUs, and neither of them can afford to not go casual; they need all of the income they can get.

If you're a casual gamer obviously this all means nothing to you because you get more games. "Hardcores being a niche population makes their games niche." Yes. Precisely. That's not good news when you're in that niche, and just like he pointed out there's nothing any of us can do to stop it. Nintendo got wise on a way to make money without the traditional client base and now none of the companies need the traditional client base, and when you're the traditional client base that sucks.

Which is all this article is trying to say. It sucks. No, it doesn't suck for you. Congratulations.



What does "Hardcore" actually mean?

Follow me into the past for a minute. Think about the days of the NES. Most games I remember playing were very difficult -- the sort of problem that gets under your skin and mandates that you return tomorrow and try again, knowing that you will just cry yourself to sleep to subdue the frustration anyway. Completing a game was a real accomplishment. And I don't mean collecting every coin or every bouncy, happy jinjo and finding the 100 secret areas hidden throughout. I mean just getting to the end of the game. We weren't collectors back then, we were sprinters, plowing headfirst into whatever looked like the quickest way to get through the level.

This was the beginning of the hardcore movement. For those that lived through these games, you had a certain expectation of what a video game should be. It should an exclusive privilege and a badge of honor to truly play a game well. It required memorization of each level and each enemy and it required an ungodly amount of time to train your reflexes for each particular game.

Fast forward to today. Everyone is playing, but more importantly, everyone is on a much more level playing field because of advances in technology and game design. The controls are more intuitive, the difficulty is on a gradual curve, and everyone gets better much quicker. And the hardcore are supposedly left out in the cold, clutching to their tattered copy of Battletoads and praying that their video game demigods haven't forgotten about them and their quest for self destruction through extreme frustration. Where is my next unbeatable game to conquer, they ask.

Get over it. Gaming wasn't made just for you. It is a maturing form of entertainment, art, and culture and it's finally hit that critical mass where everyone is starting to take notice and get involved. Companies like Nintendo have realized this (possibly created this) and they're riding the crest of change. No company wants to paddle along with their hands and watch the rest of the market surf away. And personally, I'm happy that video games are finally receiving the acceptance and respect that they deserve from people of all ages.

Keep in mind -- many of these people just starting in on the 'casual' games may develop into hardcore gamers themselves. There's an ebb and flow, and we've just had a massive exodus from the music and movies camp into the video game camp. Some of these caterpillars are going to grow some hardcore wings. Stop complaining and start training -- hardcore never went away, but it's going to grow into something completely different and you should be ready.




lol wat?

Really? Maybe the market won't be as large as the casual gaming market, but it won't, and probably can't kill it. We're talking about a professional competitive sport that is played all over the world. There's no way a rise in casual sales will end "hardcore" gaming. That's like saying that all good food will disappear because of the rise of fast food.

I'm sorry, but this article is kind of short-sighted....

Are you insinuating that Guitar Hero cannot be classified as a "hardcore" game? Cause that thing gets pretty hardcore.



re: lol wat?

My grandma plays Guitar Hero. She plays it on easy, but she plays. It is NOT a hardcore game.



That is just a stupid statement, is there an age limit as to how "hardcore" a game can be now? What is the maximum age limit for a "hardcore" game, under 40? under 50?

Hardcore is about the level enthusiasm and interest in gaming, not how old you are or if there's a guy with a gun in every game you play.



Re: How Nintendo Killed Gaming

I think the point of the article was really about the threat of hardcore (not disney/kiddie bs) gaming dying off.

Its really about the potential/opportunity that these companies see, by catering to a larger market. This I believe will eventually encourage them to divert their resources from producing "real" games towards "softer" games that appeal to a wider audience - purely from a profit perspective.

This isnt really about any system/platform in particular. I own all the next gen systems - enjoy all of them but I do consider games like MGS4, SuperMario*, MetroidPrime, GoW*, Fallout* and the like to be "real" games.



I Agree

why are people so critical to this article's point of view? it's very true. i saw this coming 6 months into the wii launch, when i sold my wii. by that time wii already had more shovelware released than ps2, not a good sign.

before wii, shitty shovelware don't sell and good games sell. that was a generally true statement. nintendo managed to turn the gaming world upside down, and somehow the opposite is now true. wii play sold millions and madword sold 66k.

if nintendo can make brainage with $300k and 3 guys in 3 months, and sell like gangbusters for YEARS, why bother with the $20 million, 100 devs, 5 year development games like FF XIII. much higher cost and much higher risk and the same potential payout. i think FF XIII would be the last of its' kind from square-enix. anything after that would be toned down in terms of cost, quality, development time, etc. just look Dragon Quest 9. its on DS for christ sake!!! it was unthinkable.

if by this time you are still excited by all things nintendo, i would say that chances are you are a casual gamer,then good for you. if you're a core gamer AND still supports they way nintendo is going, then you're an idiot.



in the world of limited resources, developers are going to do what's most profitable for them with the least amount of risk and resources. this should be obvious by now. monster hunter 3, dq9, ff spin-offs, developed for ds, and wii mostly.

your analogy is a bit of in the sense of pricing. if fast food can be priced to match quality food, everyone would be making fastfood.

wii and ds games are priced more or less the same regardless of the quality. that's the key here.



Hardcore will die only if the h.c. gamers disappear...

Hardcore games will only disappear if the 'hardcore' players 'retire' or otherwise change their purchasing habits in such a way that the hardcore games sell poorly (ie wait until the game is discounted, obsess over a handful of games, if not only one specific game for too long a period of time, etc.) Perhaps some 'hardcore' players have gotten fed up of the relatively limited scope of these types of games, which only look and sound better than their predecessors, without being more 'fun'. The gameplay must evolve along with the artwork and special effects so that 'hardcore' games can sell.

If high quality 'hardcore' game production decreases, it won't be due to 'casual' game production increases, since they are different types of markets IMHO. The Wii's controllers could actually be used for 'hardcore' games, if only more 'hardcore' developers would take the Wii controller technology more seriously...



"Get over it. Gaming wasn't made just for you"

this is the whole point of this article. gaming is no longer catering for the hardcore. that's why it sucks, if you're a core gamer at least.

it might be evolution, but in the wrong direction. gaming used to be cutting edge. now its' success is based on gimmicks, last-gen hardware, low risk, generally lower standards and cheap costs.



name one decent game within the last 3 months on wii. madworld? it sold 66k. thankfully sega's happy with that performance. other devs would be fuming mad by now, realize the futility of making decent games and go on to make shovelwares like any sane developer would do.

good for us, there are still insane devs out there.



No wonder the "real world" wont take gamers seriously.

This elitist, divisive, "us verses them" mentality expressed in this discussion is part of the reason the "real world" is weary of considering gaming a worthwhile interest and past time.

The "Nintendo is ruining hardcore gaming" attitude would be like if fans of horror and mystery novels started complaining that the popularity of short stories and poetry are a threat to "real literature" and accusing anyone who dares pick up anything besides a full length novel of your favorite genre of being a "novice reader" and that the authors who write them are pandering to inexperienced readers for a quick buck rather than writing "real" literature.

I guess nobody remembers the flood of shovelware on Playstation 2 last generation. The PS2 was flooded with countless dozens of crappy games designed to be sold at bargain bin prices, but I sure don't remember anybody saying that the Playstation 2 was a worthless system because of that.

If someone wants to think the only games on Wii are Wii Sports and Wii Fit and then complain that they're no "hardcore" games than let them, it's their loss.



The Sims 3

You have a point, but then again, people pour endless hours into Brain Training too. Does that mean Brain Training isn't casual either?



Nintendo drove the people who wanted good games on the wii

Nintendo Drove away all the people who bought the wii in the first place games like Mario, Red Steel and others and wanted games that are good but drove them away with shovelware and casual junk, I dont mind Wiifit and stuff like that but is that all where going to get when good games are few and far from being released most of the time no wonder alot of Hardcore and people who want games that are actualy games we know and saw what Red Steel was liek and said wow even though it was a disapointment but Metroid Prime 3 came and showed First Person Shooters can be done on the wii and games like No More Heroes and Madworld are good games but didnt sell well why because Nintneod drove the people who would of Bought and played those games.

If Nintendo hadnt drove them away with junk and allowed 3rd party developers and publishers spam the wii with crapy ports and shovelware and hardly any good games built for the wii which made those people who would of played Madworld and No More Heroes sell or trade there wii's in for a Xbox 360 and PS3.

But I see Nintendo focusing on real games now and seeing developers see potential in the wii for games besides Casual and junk shovelware being built for the wii lets hope all those games at E3 like Sillent Hill Shattered Memories and Red Steel which are built for the wii and others are what they say and are great games not being killed by Causal gaming influence of having to dumb down games and kill the game in ways. Nintendo has enought stuff for the Casual and should focus on real gamers and same with 3rd Party Developers and Publishers before its to late



well written article

This is a great article. It is refreshing to see a journalist taking an educated approach to writing about videos games and not just witting about crap.

I would classify myself as a hard core game and I don't own a Wii, because it does not cater to my interests. If all consoles makers go the casual route and don't make games I like, I will have to spend my time and money in other ways; like movies or other entertainment outlets.

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