it’s casual


ross rubin, a wikkid smahht analyst and one of the craftiest commentators on engadget, talks about microsoft’s attempt at capturing the casual gaming market with the xbox 360 in this week’s column. Casual gaming is the orginial xbox’s weakness. there are no good titles. In order to remedy this, microsoft is talking about including access to casual games offered on the web like bejeweled and the like over xbox 360’s live service (aka its internet connection).

ross wisely points out this is idiotic. no one is going to buy a console to play a couple of stupid games that they can play over the web using their pc. these games aren’t compelling enough to warrant the purchase of additional equipment just to play them on a tv instead of a monitor. instead, ross suggests that microsoft should / could convince game makers to include casual or mini versions of their games with the full titles. it’s an interesting concept, allowing casual gamers casual access to popular game geek titles. i’m not sure i agree it’s the solution.

nintendo is the king of casual gaming. their consoles have always had accessible titles, and the gameboys have created an empire on them. there’s a reason gameboys are still outselling psp’s – there are just too many excellent, innovative casual titles for the psp to compete with. anyone who thinks nintendo is dead hasn’t played with nintendogs or seen the new GBA version of animal crossing. don’t get me wrong. sony are on the right track with the psp, but 4 good casual titles can’t compete with nintendo’s 5 year library of them.

Even the ps2, which arguably appeals to serious gamers who are the xbox’s mainstay, has excellent casual gaming titles. at launch sony was sure to have that stupid fireworks game and they’ve knocked people’s socks off with everything from DDR to Rez to katamari damacy – a game so broadly appealing it’s on everyone’s lips and in their heads too.

namco are smart and have announced that in addition to a katamari sequel, they are also reworking the original for mobile devices. nokia, despite their expertise in mobile phones, don’t get casual / mobile gaming at all. in fact, they might be worse than microsoft. they’re equally ignorant of it, but it’s more critical to the success of their platform. nokia announced all the new n-gage titles yesterday and there was barely a casual one among the lot. the only casual title is a card full of re-issued classic arcade games. how weak is that? the second closest was a card-based MMO game called spirits. that at least looks interesting.

don’t get me wrong. the xbox 360 will sell well – at least until the ps3 comes out 6 months after. the ps3 has double the pixel pushing power of the xbox and no exclusive titles are going to keep serious gamers away (although the cost might). The ps3 is predicted to be a couple hundred bucks more than the xbox 360, but serious gamers will pay and casual gamers probably will too on the promise of HD movie playback.

if microsoft really wants to start appealing to a broader base of users, they have a good start by incorporating media center playback and other home media features into the xbox 360. but either they’re going to have to use that alone as the non-gamer appeal or they’re going to have to convince studios to start coming up with innovative casual games. if they don’t, there’s no reason for non-gamer types to buy an xbox 360 as opposed to the nintendo revolution. the nintendo will have awesome joy-bringing titles (donkey konga 3 anyone?) and backwards compatibility with every nintendo console released thanks to built in emulators for flashback fun.


One Response to “it’s casual”

  1. 1 Games! Games! Games!

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