During the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, web-oriented game developer and distributor Big Fish Games released results of its research project into the spending and playing habits of so-called hardcore and casual gamers.
Conducted with market research firm NPD, the study surveyed 2,611 gamers and determined that lines between casual and hardcore are blurry at best, and gamer demographics are broader than conventional thinking has held. As Big Fish chief strategy officer (CSO) Paul Thelen stated during a Casual Connect keynote, the traditional casual approach of "'one size fits all' doesn't work."
Rather than simply separating gamers into casual and hardcore, Big Fish created 10 casual gaming segments and four core gaming segments - when it comes to demographics, business models, and platforms, the gaming market is diverging, not converging, the company claims.
Thelen took aim at what he called industry myths - while common wisdom states casual gamers devote less time to games, he explained, Big Fish found that segments such as MMO players and "slow strategists" are the leaders in hours spent playing, and platformer- and rhythm- heavy "frenetics" also beat out some of the more hardcore segments in hours played.
The fourteen segments describe particular subsets of casual and hardcore gamers - and the significantly higher number of casual segments points to the breadth and volume of that market. One segment, "Nancy Drews," refers to older female gamers who play games to relax. They tend towards puzzle games and casino games; 59 percent of them are over 35 years old, and many are retirees. By contrast, the average gamer age is 33.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are "heavy action" gamers, who play titles such as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty. That group skews 73 percent male, and 45 percent of the audience is between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.
Thelen argued that by disaggregating the market in this way, developers and publishers are able to more effectively specialize and focus individual titles, leading to greater success among their target audiences. "Going after the casual or core audience lacks the specificity to have any real meaning and will not help define your vision enough to be successful," he said.
That same philosophy should be applied to distribution, he went on - companies should not try to be all things to all people. "Customers are smart and will find the best-in-class provider," he pointed out. "Don't try to compete in music distribution against iTunes. They are very good at what they do."