Serious Gamer = A person who considers gaming their main source of entertainment.
Casual Gamer = A person who considers gaming just one of many sources of entertainment.
Something that I find interesting is people worrying about devices such as iPhones and iPads taking potential customers away from the 3DS or Vita. Who’s to say they were potential customers? Because someone purchases an iPad, does this mean it is a foregone conclusion that they would have bought a dedicated handheld gaming device such as a 3DS or Vita if the iPad did not exist? I don’t think so.
Back in the days of the NES, Master System, SNES, and Genesis/Mega Drive, the majority of the gaming audience were "serious gamers". The minority of the audience were "casual gamers". I think it goes without challenge to say that period of gaming was successful in terms of money being made by most console manufacturers and publishers. Business was booming.
Fast forward to today. There are millions of new players who are considered the gaming audience. The serious gamer is now the minority, and the casual gamer is now the majority. There are more serious gamers than ever before, but there are now out-numbered by casual gamers. Much more money is being made due to the larger audience. But, business is kind of a mess. It certainly is not booming; at least, not for everyone.
Console manufacturers and video-game publishers who can capture the imagination of the casual gamers win. Just look at the success of games like Nintendogs, Farmville, and the recent Call of Duty titles. I know, some of you are thinking I’m insane for lumping Call of Duty into the same category as Nintendogs and Farmville, but please hear me out.
I believe (and you’re welcome to disagree) that the majority of today’s Call of Duty players are dedicated casual gamers. Yeah, I know that sounds counter-intuitive. What I mean by this is that the dedicated casual players of Call of Duty devote their time to one game series. Sure, they might dabble in other titles while they’re gracing us with their presence in the gaming scene, but their main source of gaming entertainment is Call of Duty. They might in fact spend countless hours playing just Call of Duty, pushing other previous sources of entertainment to the side. But, when the day comes that they no longer wish to play Call of Duty, their interest in video-games is put back on an equal footing with the many other sources of entertainment. Whereas a serious gamer would naturally move onto the next game.
You might be saying to yourself, “What does this have to do with ‘3DS or iPhone?’?” That’s a great question. The reason I make the conclusion above is to draw light to the fact that the casual gamer is fickle when it comes to games. There’s nothing wrong with this, unless you bet your business on it.
The serious gaming audience is larger than ever before, but it just isn’t enough for today’s greedy businessmen. They see the larger casual gaming audience alongside the serious gaming audience and they want it all! Good luck with that. I say, target the serious gaming audience. You can count on them. They love games. Games are their main source of entertainment. You know what the irony is? Serious gamers want ‘real’ games. They don’t just want watered-down interactive movies that cost tens of millions to produce where ‘story’ is the focus. Sure, the occassional one is great, but they also want challenge. They want gameplay!
So, yeah it’s easy to say that iPhones and the like are taking customers away from the 3DS and other gaming platforms, but at the end of that day, were these customers really ever interested in gaming beyond a casual flutter? Probably not. Let the touch-control app world that is dominated by inexpensive crumb-flicking simulators have their five minutes of fun and let us get back to serious gaming business.