It seems that ever since the PlayStation hit the market, the video game industry has become more and more focused on bringing in people who aren’t really into video games. These people are sometimes referred to as “casuals” or “casual gamers”. Over time it seems as though the industry hasn’t even come close to getting this particular audience interested in gaming. As consoles become more about social networking, motion control, and television, they never change how these people view video games. To them, these devices are just another means to utilizing what they’re already interested in, with video games on the side. One example of this would be a friend I talked to the other day. He has little to no interest in video games at all, but did happen to read about the Xbox One. The only thing he even noticed about Xbox One was the aspect about it that had to do with television, in fact that was what generated his interest in it.
While it may be true that companies are capturing a larger audience than before, the people they’re courting aren’t changing. They have no more interest in video games than they did 20 years ago, and probably never will. All that really matters to them is how this hardware will facilitate their interests that don’t have to do with video games. What is worrying, is how far the industry may go to placate this particular group. Microsoft has already taken it a step further with the way it has designed its new platform. How much longer before the focus on these extra features becomes even greater than video games?
Of course, another question would be how sustainable is this business model? It appears to be short term profit, as this particular group of consumers doesn’t seem to stick around for long before getting bored and moving onto the next thing. Smart phones after all, are capturing more and more casual gamers, and appear to be gaining a lot of steam as the years go by. This could be good or bad depending on the industry’s next move. Companies may try even harder to focus their attention on casuals in an attempt to compete with the smart phones and other devices; or they may find that they can never possibly compete with these devices, and figure it’s simply not profitable to even bother.
Time will tell whether either scenario plays out, but it most certainly can go in any one direction. The night is always darkest before dawn, and we may experience consoles becoming nothing more than entertainment centers with very little focus on video games at all. If this does come to pass, companies may find that they’re simply not profiting from it and will put a greater focus on video games again.