This post is sparked by Loire’s post about the Overwatch beta, specifically this line:
The “simplified genre” idea is successful because it opens up games to a much wider audience, including the still-massive World of Warcraft audience.
Certainly back in the day, gaming was this obscure, hard-to-get-into niche that nerds in basements wasted hours with. It made sense to take that and make it easier to get into, just like it made sense to take the relatively hard-to-access EQ and release the more accessible WoW.
I think we might already be past a tipping point here however. Look at the most successful mobile games to date; Clash of Clans isn’t a simple game (in fact its far deeper/harder than most games once you get into clan wars), nor is Boom Beach. If Blizzard or anyone else released a ‘simpler’ CoC, I think they would lose more people due to the lack of depth than they would gain by being more accessible.
In fact, I think we already have the perfect example of this in action; League of Legends is the most popular game out right now and has been for years, and Blizzard released the more casual HotS, yet HotS is an afterthought in the MOBA market, and many players see it as an overly simplified gimmick-fest. Technically HotS has the Blizzard polish, uses all of the Blizzard IPs, and had the marketing push of a AAA game. In short, it has failed to gain traction not because it’s a cheaply made game or has crippling bugs/flaws, but IMO it has failed because the average gamer views LoL as accessible-enough, and anything lower is overly simplified. Blizzard lost more gamers than it gained by ‘dumbing down’ LoL.
I think this trend is only going to continue as gaming becomes more and more mainstream, and the ‘average gamer’ goes from someone who is relatively clueless to someone with years of gaming under their belt and who is looking for something with real meat to play. There will always be room for the bottom feeder ‘click and watch’ games like Farmville, but that group of uneducated gamers will continue to shrink into a smaller and smaller minority, while the expectations of the ‘average gamer’ will continue to rise and mature.
‘Dumb it down and polish’ was a successful business model in the past, but times have changed, thankfully for the better.