Some people worry about technical specs and some worry about what the launch titles for a new system will be and while both are important and worthy of discussion I am more concerned with another topic in regards to the next generation of hardware; what approach will the Big 3 take in terms of a target market? This generation we saw both the casual and hardcore gaming markets expand; especially the casual. This generation successfully made gaming accessible to anyone from toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between. But is the casual market becoming too important to hardware manufacturers? I’d say yes and no and here is why. The Wii ushered in a new way to play games, but at the same time tapped a demographic that had never been tapped prior to its inception. Casual gaming was an idea that had been tossed around, but was really never taken seriously or seen as a viable platform for companies to embrace (the original Eye Toy for example). The Wii kicked conventional and traditional gaming models in the teeth and really established the casual market. The casual market exploded once the Wii took off and became the hottest item to have and not only made casual gaming fun it also put the whole industry on notice. Companies like Microsoft and Sony had to rethink their approach in regards to casual gaming and it came down to either sinking or swimming. Enter the Kinect and Playstation Move; casual gaming options on hardcore platforms, a huge moment for both companies respectively. Where the Wii originally had almost a complete lock on the casual market, Microsoft and Sony had swooped in and staked their claim. Both the Kinect and Move have seen proper and poor integration of their alternative playing options (just like the Wii), but casual gaming is only part of the equation, and like I said earlier I think it is important, but also it is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted or milked excessively.
A balance must be struck, but I think it is going to be more of a juggling act. We saw two consoles [Xbox 360 and PS3] have individual identity crisis’s because of how pervasive casual gaming became. They sought to change everything they stood for to cater to a new market and I will not chastise them for it. It was a necessary move (no pun intended) in order to bridge the gap between their two audiences. Gaming is big business and you need to be well versed in all disciplines to remain competitive. I just want them to remember that there are two sides to the coin and that a hybrid market needs to be implemented in order to satisfy the gaming community at large.
With the Wii U already on the table and nothing really concrete on Xbox 720 or PS4 yet it is hard to tell how each will approach this next console generation. The Wii U seems to be treading on familiar ground like its predecessor, but I don’t think that will not be enough to sustain Nintendo for another cycle. I remain hopeful for Nintendo though. The Kinect is a really cool piece of tech that will more than likely be integrated into their next platform mainly because of its late start. The Move might have life after the PS3, but that is completely contingent on what Sony’s main focus is. The Move hasn’t really seen anything too stunning, but maybe that can change with a new piece of hardware. I am pretty confident that all three major consoles will have motion controlling options, but how they are integrated will make or break the bank. The next year will undoubtedly be very interesting and I hope that no matter what approach the Big 3 take they do not alienate anyone in the process, because that wouldn’t be very nice, would it?
How do you feel about casual gaming? Do you enjoy it or do you prefer a more traditional gaming experience? If you were one of the Big 3 how would you handle this dilemma? Sound off in the comments section and let us know what you think. As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.