Mainstream dilution, core gamer evolution

I’m glad people enjoyed the article I linked to yesterday, and I wish I had seen it earlier as I really believe it does an excellent job breaking down how certain companies approach creating ‘games’ and also who is actually buying. Because as bad as Zynga and others like them are, they only exist because there are a lot of people buying the trash they are selling, and buying it in amounts large enough to draw companies like EA into that market.

I had a draft half-done talking about how current-day MMO players have finally evolved from the ‘accessible’ garbage phase that permeated the genre from 2007 until SW:TOR or so. The quick exodus from SW:TOR, and the initial scorn for what TESO is aiming to be, seems to show that even in the casual MMO gamer space, people are done with cookie-cutter crap games, and want something a little more… MMO. The cheering for GW2, if somewhat over-the-top at times, is also a solid sign.

So how can we both be moving forward, yet at the same time taking such giant steps back? Market split. Or rather, just different games aiming at completely different targets, and both (so far) hitting more often than not. The only ones who are truly missing today are those stuck in the middle. Those who aim to be ‘accessible’ but still a game, be it an MMO from EA or a more game-like game from Zynga.

The prime Zynga target, that 30 something mother that (somehow…) gets sucked into dropping 10k a year to build a farm, won’t spend 15k if her farm had better gameplay. In fact, she is likely to only get confused and run away, because if you have the mental capacity to drop 10k on a virtual farm, I’m pretty sure you lack the mental capacity to actually play Pong, let alone anything more complex.

The reverse appears to now be true in the core gamer space. The average MMO gamer has (finally) realized that while welfare epics are neat RIGHT NOW, they destroy your fun long-term. That while rainbows shitting out cookies might seem ‘epic’ the first time around, it’s not something you are going to enjoy month after month, and reskinning the rainbow seems to have stopped fooling most as well.

I’d like to believe that the cheap cash-in that is Zynga won’t be sustainable. That once that mother realizes her pimped out farm is just glitzy garbage, she won’t be tricked again and build a 10k city or spacestation. Sadly history suggests that the depths of human stupidity are truly remarkable, and despite being slapped in the face, that mother WILL drop another 10k, or maybe 15k after Zynga refines their ‘secret sauce’ and makes it an even better idiot trap. Just like the slot machine zombies you see at every casino, there is no cure or hope for these people.

Luckily for the rest of us, while catering to the zombie crowd is one way to make a (cheap and sleazy) buck, it’s not the only one. You can bet that DayZ is making suits in every major game studio perk up, just like Minecraft did before it. A title like Skyrim performing amazingly well is news to cheer.

Not only is there good money to be made in creating solid games with good design (LoL), that good money is very sustainable long-term (EVE) under a model that respects the customer. And as gamers (hopefully) continue to get smarter, we should not only see quality rewarded, but more examples of creativity as well. DayZ is successful not because its gameplay is perfected, but because its general concept and execution are so fresh.

(It’s important to note that in the early years of gaming, quality was indeed rewarded. But as the market expanded and gaming become mainstream, the average gamers IQ dropped. I believe what we are (slowly) seeing now is that IQ going back up, overall, while there is still that Zynga sub-set as well.)

16 Responses to Mainstream dilution, core gamer evolution

  1. SlothBear says:

    You know I’ve been playing a lot of old school games thanks to the Steam Sale and I was actually surprised at how difficult some of them are. Then I realized it’s not that the games themselves are so impossibly hard I’ve just become used to “hard” meaning “you have to click more to kill stuff but don’t worry you can still alt tab to chat and be watching TV and on the phone at the same time.”

    But these older games with actual difficulty are so much more rewarding as a player. Hopefully you are right that the trend is reversing but…I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

  2. Machination says:

    Trends, when followed for long enough, are typically revealed to be cycles.

    The trend of ‘care-bear sparkle-ponies’ (pardon my language) is really part of the evolutionary cycle of design. I believe you are correct, and that we’re now entering into the upswing — that MMOs are going to become more and more engaging and satisfying in the coming decade.

    SW:TOR proved that we’ve crossed the threshold of what players will be satisfied with. A quarter of a billion dollars, and a smash-hit IP couldn’t redeem the fact that it’s too similar to what we’ve already got. We’re not looking for “more content”, but “better content”. This bodes well for games.

    • Lyss says:

      Tor wasnt just a wowclone, or a cloned themepark, it was even in its own genre a bad game.

      Sure you could draw the conclusion it failed because it was yet another themeparked wowclone, and maybe this had an impact on the playerbase, but to really prove that it was solely this which led to its downfall the game had to be good, which it wasnt by any means. Like it is I am not sure how much of the playbase quit it because it was a dumb thempark, or quit because it was bad.

      Part of me wishes it was a really good themepark to see if it could survive as that.

  3. Random Idiot says:

    /quote
    DayZ is successful not because its game play is perfected, but because its general concept and execution are so fresh.
    /endQuote

    I like DayZ because of consequential death, and I wish there was more of it in gaming…

  4. jaggins says:

    Evolutionary bifurcation. Someday hardcore gamers may live underground and prey on the clueless yet beautiful Eloi (Zynga zombies),

  5. Ano says:

    “The cheering for GW2, if somewhat over-the-top at times, is also a solid sign.”

    I love every aspect of GW2. It removes all the annoying shit that has plagued MMO’s over the past 8 years.

    No enforced grouping, no ridiculous travel times, no monthly fees, no epeen loot contests, no annoying raids with antisocial assholes, no set class roles. Be whatever you want to be, play however you want. About bloody time.

  6. Everblue says:

    What is it with you and 30-something mothers? It comes up time and again in your posts. Why do you think that they are (i) Zynga’s target audience, or (ii) morons?

    Are you actually fishing for people to bite back, or do you genuinely think that women with kids must be stupid?

  7. camazotz says:

    ”In fact, she is likely to only get confused and run away, because if you have the mental capacity to drop 10k on a virtual farm, I’m pretty sure you lack the mental capacity to actually play Pong, let alone anything more complex.”

    I think this is an example. I would certainly agree that these social games are a waste of time, but they don’t appeal to morons….they appeal to addictive personalities. At least, the ones willing to drop 10K (which I assume is cash you refer to).

    That said, I don\’t think most of the friend I have who spam me with these inane requests while playing these games are morons, and in fact some are quite competent in Real Life (a long time time friend of mine plays Farmville and its ilk to death, but she’s otherwise not a gamer and is a behavioral therapist in real life, ironically). She is most definitely not a dumb person, quite the opposite, but she chooses her entertainment and enjoys it, and with minimal expense on her own part, so she\’s not a ”10K” person….most aren’t I suspect.

    The point, though, is that you are arbitrarily denigrating a specific subset of gamers simply because you want to see them that way, and not because they actually are (dumb, that is, not 30-something). My advice? You need to get out more, maybe hang around some 30 something moms with kids, and at least learn that they don’t bite and they aren’t any stupider than the rest of us who waste our time playing video games. And make no mistake: our preferred corner of the hobby is no less irrelevant.

    • SynCaine says:

      If the person in question is not spending 10k, then we are not talking about the same group.

      If you are trying to make the point that someone who does drop 10k on Farmville is not an idiot, well, then we will just have to disagree there.

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