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The Quinquennial (or sometimes more often)

Various thoughts on online gaming, often pulled from articles I've written for other sources.

Author: Quizzical

We are all casual now

Posted by Quizzical Sunday February 1 2009 at 9:40PM
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Are you a casual player or hardcore? If you don’t have an answer for that ready, stop and think a minute. If you’re not going to see this until 12 hours after it was posted, I can wait an extra couple of minutes for your reply.

For most of you, there is a correct answer to that question, and casual isn’t it. Not only do you play online games, but you go to external sites to read or talk about online games. And not just sites specific to whichever game(s) you’re playing at the time. And you even clicked on a blog entry not specific to any game at all. That degree of involvement in MMORPGs makes you very hardcore compared to most MMORPG players.

Why then do a lot of players here describe themselves as casual players? The answer to that is that an overwhelming majority of players self-describe as casual rather than hardcore.

There are various reasons for this. Perhaps the biggest is that notions of hardcore and casual don’t make sense in isolation, but only in comparison to other players. Relatively hardcore players are disproportionately used for such comparisons. If one player plays five hours per day and another plays two hours per week, whom are you more likely to meet in the game? Whom are you more likely to read about on various external sources?

Even if casual players outnumber hardcore players by a large margin, when people go to make comparisons to other players in the game, they mostly compare themselves to the handful of extremely hardcore players. And compared to them, yes, most players are casual.

Another reason is that a substantial majority of players really do spend less time than average in a game. One player can play several times as much as average, and quite a few players do. But no one can play less than no time in a game at all. When it comes to calculating averages, one very hardcore player can bring the average up enough to counteract several extremely casual players.

A third reason is that humans are very averse to thinking that we’re doing things wrong. Most people would recognize that playing games too much is bad, even if there’s nothing wrong with playing games in moderation. As such, there can be a tendency to think, maybe those hardcore players are failing classes or getting fired from a job (and indeed, very few people fit into those categories), but I’m not one of them.

People sometimes complain that everything is too dumbed down, and there aren’t enough games made for hardcore players. If the overwhelming majority of players will self-identify as casual, then guess where the money in marketing games to players is. If a game can’t appeal to casual players, then it has to get quite a lot of money per player from hardcore players to be financially viable. Some games try that via item malls, but most hardcore players find that distasteful. A game absolutely must appeal to casual players in order to be commercially successful.

Indeed, if hardcore players aren’t going to pay any more than casuals, companies might well not want such players at all. Hardcore players are more expensive than casuals. They use more server bandwidth. They call for company help more often. If they are inclined to cause trouble, they will cause a lot more, and know how to cause a lot more. Glitch exploitation and botting are almost the exclusive domain of hardcore players.

That’s not to say that companies should ban players for logging too many hours. That would offend both hardcore and casual players alike, and be a PR disaster. But the point remains that there just isn’t that much money to be made by going out of your way to appeal to hardcore players in ways that will drive away casual players. Even to hardcore players who misidentify themselves as casual, having to devote your life to a game to be competitive really doesn’t hold that much appeal.

So are companies primarily interested in attracting casual players? Yes, because that’s what the players want. 

axlezero writes:

You make the assumption that hardcore games have to be long drawn out affairs.  Not true, hardcore isn't defined by having to grind a year to hit max level, hardcore is in having challenging content, not dumbed down stuff that can be easily solo'd by most.

What do I mean?  Events that actually require you to pay attention and to think about what you are doing.  Where one idiot could ruin a whole raid because he didn't listen to raid instructions.  It wasn't that it took forever to do encounters, just that you had to anticipate and be prepared for any mishaps.  Modern mmo's being dumbed down refer to having no challenge in a fight, you go and click your buttons, and as long as a few people are paying attention you are all good, time to roll on loot.

There was an old advertising motto that basically said the customer doesn't really know what they want, so you have to provide it for them.  Something I always interpreted as people play casual because its whats out there, however people will play "hardcore" games if the game is well designed, just like any other game. 

Also you are misinterpreting statistics.  Although I don't blame you, everyone does it to make a point.  I can pull out several stats for you that are as groundless as the ones you've made up.

Buried for lack of any truly informative information.

Mon Feb 02 2009 1:52AM Report
axlezero writes:

I should say I am not trying to be rude, I honestly just think you should define what you view as hardcore and what you view as casual.  Hardcore to me isn't endless grinds, but as I said, challenging content where I don't mash buttons and kill crap, but have to use the appropriate skills in order to survive.  Example, if I use fire on a fire elemental, I heal it.  I dont damage it, so I won't want to use fire skills.  (pretty basic example, but you get the point)

Some think you need to spend 6 months getting to max level for it to be harcore etc etc, I could go on and on.  People differ on what they view as soft and hard.

Mon Feb 02 2009 2:14AM Report
sfraden writes:

I agree with axel - not exactly sure where your blog was actually going, other than stating a few random opinions...

Mon Feb 02 2009 7:54AM Report
sfraden writes:

Oh, and Im a Casual-core player :)   I play about 3 hours every day with marathons on the weekends, however I can (and often have) just walked away for a few days.  I play just abit too much to be casual but not nearly dedicated enough to be hardcore....

Mon Feb 02 2009 7:56AM Report
Quizzical writes:

The point here wasn't to define casual or hardcore players, apart from how players describe themselves.  Rather, the point is that even a lot of players who are relatively hardcore on any reasonable scale won't describe themselves that way.  Far more players will claim to be casual than hardcore.

To use sfraden's example, pick any activity that is done for entertainment, and say that someone participates in it "about 3 hours every day with marathons on the weekends".  Very few outside observers would say that sort of time committment isn't hardcore, but you balk at describing yourself that way.

And the point certainly wasn't to define a casual or hardcore game.  There isn't any implicit assumption that this or that will appeal to casual players or hardcore players.  The only assumption is that what a casual player wants in a game differs somewhat from how a hardcore player wants.  Axlezero, you even claim to agree with that.

Basically, what happened is that you expected the blog post to say one thing, and instead it said something else--so you tried to read into it what you expected it to say, and found that it wasn't there.

Mon Feb 02 2009 8:19AM Report
sfraden writes:

MMM, no, i expected nothing, and was not sure what I got after reading.  Nothing wrong with that, its your blog, say what you like :)


Mon Feb 02 2009 1:27PM Report
Ziboo writes:

 The common definition seems to be 'hard-core' is the daily must raid/max level/uber geared type person and everyone else.

 I consider myself casual/hardcore in that I don't raid - I don't see the joy (to me) of the endless grind for a piece of gear against the same boss again and again - for badges, buttons, marks or a specific drop.  Once or twice maybe but once its done then why?

I do see that most 'hardcore' people seem to feel if the content doesn't require a group of dedicated indivduals then it's not quality content.

I like to solo (not always) but time/life-wise it's what it is.  I do like fairly difficult questlines though that are soloable - not go kil ten white bunnies, now go kill ten grey ones, those are grind sessions. I'd like intricate questlines that require some thought but that can be done over time.

But,  I do NOT always have 3-5 hours a day to get geared and then spend in one raid instance, daily or have people dependent on my schedule.  I may play 3+ hours a day on a given day but its generally broken up throughout the day - why I consider it the casual part!

I believe there are more players in this group than not.  Covering both types of play is the issue.


Mon Feb 02 2009 6:37PM Report
popinjay writes:

Casual player.

I don't play more than 3 hours in a day now. My hardcore playing days are over. And when I play now as opposed to my younger days, its for the fun of the game and not "phat lootz" or domination.

I could care less if goldsellers or goldbuyers or mod hackers are in the game. Their effect on my fun and gaming experience is negligible.. there's always plenty of nodes for me to hit, mob bosses to kill and content to see. Auction prices going up/down never affects me because I usually don't buy anything. Friends and I farm/make all we need, so we don't play games with crappy crafting available.

My life is quite busy now and hardcore gaming doesn't fit in it anymore.

I just require a game that works well when you boot it, no crashes and engaging content without bland repetition.

Mon Feb 02 2009 7:13PM Report
Hrothmund writes:


If you play three hours a day, each day, you'll hit 21 hours a week, which is a lot. I would not consider those hours casual myself.


Granted I played quite a bit more when WotLK was released to gear my character up, but these days in WoW at least it is extremely easy to get geared up. I play around 9 hours a week now, which is what it takes for my guild to clear the current 25-man content. Occasionally I will level an alt or do a 10-man raid to help the guild on weekends.

My point was, currently it is not hard to get yourself geared up and a raid team going. On my current realm there are PUGs happening for all of the 25-man content.

To the OP:

My personal definition of a 'hardcore' player is someone who simply puts in a lot of effort to be the best possible PC his class allows for, whether in a PvP or PvE setting.


Tue Feb 03 2009 8:00AM Report
jusagamfrek writes:

It's an interesting read.  The blogger and the respondents all have valid points.  However, I guess I look at it as more of a bell curve than an either/or proposition.  We all know people that are just starting out, playing an mmo for the first time who spend that roughly 2-6 hours a week playing the game.  We also all know people that are on everytime you log in and out, and who are willing to give up entire weekends to grind raids endlessly to get the next big-ticket item.  I find myself somewhere in-between.  Call me a core gamer. 

Tue Feb 03 2009 3:35PM Report
Annwyn writes:

Hardcore shouldn't be defined by how long you've grinded in WoW today; but how long you've been playing games, thought about them, went to check video game related articles on the internet, made plans with a guild/clan etc.

HardCore who describes themselves as Casual are just afraid of the stereotypes of fat people in front of their computer and try to dissociate themselves by saying they are Casual when they obviously play over 20 hours a week.

Personally I'm a HardCore Gamer, I'm not anywhere near the stereotypes even though I play games for 30+ hours a week, I still have a life "in the real world". Before saying that there isn't any games for HC gamers, they would first need to define what HC games mean.

Tue Feb 03 2009 6:21PM Report
Quizzical writes:

I'm not claiming that there aren't, can't be, or shouldn't be any games that appeal to hardcore players.  Rather, it is necessary for the game to also appeal to casual players in order to be anything more than a small niche game. 

Tue Feb 03 2009 6:36PM Report
Cydmab writes:

One could compare one's current self to one's past self. I used to be much more hardcore than I am today, by almost any definition of hardcore. So this tempts me to call myself casual, or at least, less hardcore.

There's also the issue that because hardcore has no fixed definition, and therefore is made of many different elements, one can usually always find a dimension by which one is relatively hardcore, and another dimensional by which one is relatively casual. You can then pick which dimension to play up based on whether you want to describe yourself as hardcore or casual.

Sun Feb 08 2009 10:08PM Report writes:
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