Own 10 Or More Games On Steam? You Are Too Core For Many Developers

| 16 Mar 2016 19:26

The debate of core gamer vs. casual gamer has been around for awhile now, but one developer was bold enough to say that, on the whole, core gamers as a group "don't matter" to most game developers any more.

You've probably seen the debates. Gamers with PCs and consoles argue their status as the most important demographic in the video game market, while mobile games and casual gamers are more on the periphery. According to a panel at GDC in San Francisco this week, the inverse may now be true.

Daniel Cook, founder of independent game developer Spry Fox, asked his audience how many owned 10 or more games on Steam. When most raised their hands, he calmly told them "you don't matter."

"You are novelty seekers," Cook said. "You are the smallest demographic in gaming."

The gaming industry has grown to an almost $100 billion business, with slightly more than one-third of that being mobile gaming. The panel - composed of Cook, Lulu LaMer of Funomena Studio, Kongregate's Emily Greer, Storm8 product manager Ramine Darabiha, and Lee Perry of Bitmonster Games - rallied around the idea that, while PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players will always spend a lot of money, the most "core" people who make up those audiences aren't worth chasing after for most studios building games.

LaMer said that the idea that mobile games are more for casual gamers is an archaic one, and one that actually hurts creativity. "Even if you get all core gamers together in a room, they don't agree on what the term means," she said. "That limits the form, and it limits innovation."

Perry, who worked at Epic Games on such titles as Gears of War 2 and Fortnite before forming his own studio, understands the divide in terminology better than most. "It was easy to see mobile gaming as transitionary," he said. "And I used to think of these people as if they were turning into 'real gamers.' And I realized I was devaluing them and doing a disservice by not thinking of mobile and casual as its own form of gaming."

All the panelists were in agreement that a core vs. casual debate is detrimental to the way the games industry is headed.

"I have a problem with calling it core because that makes everything else seem peripheral," Greer said. "It doesn't equally value the experiences of other players."

In concluding the session, Cook reiterated that the debate over terminology and dividing the player base will do more harm than good.

"It's hard to talk about these things logically when they are really, truly stupid tribal behaviors," he said. "I dislike these giant dichotomies. We have over a billion players. There's so many different groups playing games right now. Any time you split up the group to two - into us and them - you're doing a huge disservice to them and yourself."

Source: VentureBeat

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As someone whose Steam portfolio puts him squarely in the 1%, I would say that anyone with more than 10 Steam games has probably seen a Steam sale and made a brief cost/benefit analysis of what their cash would get them against the shallow samey repetition of a pay-to-play game. The only mobile game I have ever spent money on was Fallout Shelter, largely because anything Fallout-related has a nasty tendency to bypass the rational part of my brain in a way usually associated with Class A drugs.

Games are art, but not all art is equal, and not all art is enjoyed by the same audiences. Music is an art form, but I like some pieces of music and hate others. Paintings are art, but whilst Rothko leaves me cold, I like Chagall and Escher.

Moreover, consumers of the art get to choose our level of engagement: my girlfriend enjoys boardgames, Cards Against Humanity and plays the shit out of Candy Crush, but short of Civ 5 and Never Alone I have been largely unable to interest her in other videogames and she certainly doesn't self-identify as a gamer.

There is nothing wrong with having different tastes, and nothing wrong with someone who sells art trying to segment their market properly, but I am sick of people deciding that the arbitrary categories they create are profoundly unhelpful. I think the statement could have been worded substantially better: the "Core" are people who are already aware of the art and have at least a passing familiarity with it. When a new game is designed for the casual market, they are therefore not the core demographic. Mobile games target a market of "new" players, like my GF, who don't have experience with complex and demanding interfaces built over years of regular play with a range of games. They are designed to look nice, be simple to pick up and bring the player back for more at short intervals of regular play.

I don't think I necessarily departed too much from what Cook may have meant to say, but see how much less offensive that was? FFS, man, you are dealing with a notoriously sensitive demographic who just tore the arse out of an industry press who dissed them. Choose your words a little more carefully, could you?

For the record, I think the characterisation of people who own a lot of games as "novelty seekers" is both irrelevant and potentially inaccurate. As an Indie game maker, novelty is just about your best USP after nostalgia. Why would you discourage it?

Art isn't a fucking social movement, video games aren't people in need of equal rights - nobody who values their credibility as a critic is going to argue that Game of Thrones and Jersey Shore are the same form of entertainment.

Video games cover a much broader spectrum of experiences than any other art form I can think of - we just haven't reached a point where we agree on how to categorize all these things yet. That doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't be categorized.

The reason so many serious gaming studios don't dismiss the aforementioned audience is because they aren't fucking toy stores; they're artists, and they want their audience to appreciate their work as much as they do.

And yes, there is a world of difference in the perspective of somebody who occasionally plays games for fun and somebody with a true and deep love of the medium.

Strazdas:
I think we should inform CDC. I think there is a virus being spread in San Francisco that makes everyone from there speak the most stupid garbage possible in public. We need to isolate it before it spreads.

Its always funny how the most unknown, irrelevant developers tend to be the most full of themselves assholes to their audience. the only guy that pulled this off was Phil Fish and he had to quit the industry to do it!

hentropy:
At what point did GDC become such a shitshow? I mean, I'm sure there's still some decent stuff going on there, but in previous years all I hear from it are mobile developers either 1) trying to denigrate PC/console gamers and 2) talking about the best way to milk "whales" and psychologically screw with people to get their micro-monies.

I mean, was it always this bad or is there something I'm missing?

It was like that at least since 2012 when i started following what was happening at conferences.

GDC is basically E3, but for failures.

Politrukk:
Despite the fact that Warhammer as a setting is immensely refreshing for a Total War game, Tech Tree and interface are basically a carbon copy with different paint taken from Atilla and Rome2.

Its same engine. Total War series always used same engine for 3-4 games where the main difference was setting and new paintjob. This was happening with Total War series since 2003 at least.

From my memory the changes used to be quite big in comparison to what they are now, I'm not just talking about the engine I mean the actual design/layout and even music composition.

From Rome 1 tot Medieval 1 we had huge jumps gameplay wise, from Medieval to Empire the same, Napoleon was more a glorified expansion pack for Empire the same as that Medieval had 3 expansion packs.
Empire to Shogun was a huge leap again.

Ever since Shogun however we've sort of been working with the same look/feel design and only very minor alterations to fit the setting.

Spry Fox:
Snip

Ah, that makes more sense. I guess clickbait and appealing to outrage culture strikes again.

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." -Winston Churchill

I think we should inform CDC. I think there is a virus being spread in San Francisco that makes everyone from there speak the most stupid garbage possible in public. We need to isolate it before it spreads.

Its always funny how the most unknown, irrelevant developers tend to be the most full of themselves assholes to their audience. the only guy that pulled this off was Phil Fish and he had to quit the industry to do it!

hentropy:
At what point did GDC become such a shitshow? I mean, I'm sure there's still some decent stuff going on there, but in previous years all I hear from it are mobile developers either 1) trying to denigrate PC/console gamers and 2) talking about the best way to milk "whales" and psychologically screw with people to get their micro-monies.

I mean, was it always this bad or is there something I'm missing?

It was like that at least since 2012 when i started following what was happening at conferences.

GDC is basically E3, but for failures.

Politrukk:
Despite the fact that Warhammer as a setting is immensely refreshing for a Total War game, Tech Tree and interface are basically a carbon copy with different paint taken from Atilla and Rome2.

Its same engine. Total War series always used same engine for 3-4 games where the main difference was setting and new paintjob. This was happening with Total War series since 2003 at least.

Lulu LaMer :
"Even if you get all core gamers together in a room, they don't agree on what the term means," she said. "That limits the form, and it limits innovation."

These are two contradictory ideas. If you get 10 engineers in a room, confirm that they agree about everything and then send them off individually to design a bridge then they will come back with a maximum of 3 different-but-similar designs. If they disagree about everything, you will get 10 wildly varying designs. Some of them might be rubbish, but even those might contain useful new ideas. In fact, if none of them are rubbish then that suggests that nobody is trying anything unusual.

Lets try an alternate version of this sentence:

Nintendoeats:
"Even if you get all core gamers together in a room, they don't agree on what the term means," she said. "That broadens the form, and it encourages innovation."

Which of those sentences sounds more coherent? I presume that this person is intelligent because otherwise she wouldn't be where she is today. However, she clearly wasn't on her logical A-game when she formulated these ideas.

lacktheknack:
Wait, if I buy too many games, I'm not a useful... audi...ence...?

I have so many question marks.

I'll use your post as a jump-off point for some of my thoughts on this. I won't take it personally if you don't read it :)

You're really not part of the "useful audience", but the headline is kind of misleading. It leads to the idea that we're too core for "most" developers (it even says "most" when you read the first paragraph and conflates mobile game developers with all other game developers), but this is just in regards to some devs that make mobile games. What is "many" in this context?
An additional curiosity is the fact that Cook mentions steam. While a number of ports have appeared on steam, surely it's obvious that PC gamers/steam users and mobile gamers aren't all the same. It's like the owner of a hockey team saying that cricket fans aren't their main focus group - there might be a tiny overlap, but obviously they're not.

As an example of you not being their target market, would you be interested in a mobile game that sets you up as a single girl, that has to work to get money, in order to dress up and go on dates, knowing that it's time gated and heavily reliant on microtransactions?
I'm going to take a guess and assume that you wouldn't, that most of "core gamers" wouldn't, however there's a huge market for these types of non-games that just prey on "normies" with addictive formulas.

My thought is that gamers like us who have a large library and have played games from the 80's, 90's or early 00's up until now, are experienced enough to tell the difference between a borderline scam and a genuine experience designed to tell a story, present a challenge, offer a competitive scene and/or make you think about the work in question.
With that experience, we're obviously not intended for the mobile market, but we are definitely not irrelevant to by far more developers.

It's not non-news though, it's interesting to see this branch of gaming has gone and what it considers of its market.
Probably the most interesting bit is that this particular dev has opened the door to some of us, to finally declare that if we're not their "target", then mobile games aren't part of "gaming".
Suddenly the statistics that show a majority of gamers being women, flies out the window and becomes irrelevant in context to what gaming is or isn't, as well as who gamers are or aren't.
I'm sure many disagree with me, but it's hard to deny that this doesn't put things in perspective or adds something of note to that particular topic.

---

On to the single comments:

Lulu LaMer said that the idea that mobile games are more for casual gamers is an archaic one, and one that actually hurts creativity. "Even if you get all core gamers together in a room, they don't agree on what the term means," she said. "That limits the form, and it limits innovation."

This is a contradiction when you consider what Daniel Cook said, that the core gamers aren't of interest to mobile developers. Either core gamers are a separate audience that are of no interest to them, or they overlap.
Aren't mobile games for the more casual gamers? Is it archaic? I certainly think they are and I disagree that it's archaic from our perspective. For a developer that roams around the different industries, I'm sure it's a lot more mixed, but then you'd be developing for one target audience at one firm and another at a different firm.
I think Lulu is hinting at something different here, but moving on to the next quote.

Lee Perry, who worked at Epic Games on such titles as Gears of War 2 and Fortnite before forming his own studio, understands the divide in terminology better than most. "It was easy to see mobile gaming as transitionary," he said. "And I used to think of these people as if they were turning into 'real gamers.' And I realized I was devaluing them and doing a disservice by not thinking of mobile and casual as its own form of gaming."

Lee Perry, who has "casual games" listed as a competence on his LinkedIn, makes the odd statement that he was "devaluing" mobile gamers by thinking of them as "real gamers".
It's odd because it's not exactly in line with what Lulu said, that the idea of mobile games being for "casual gamers" is archaic.
It seems that in his perspective and according to his statement, that these are indeed two different markets with different values.

All the panelists were in agreement that a core vs. casual debate is detrimental to the way the games industry is headed.
"I have a problem with calling it core because that makes everything else seem peripheral," Emily Greer said. "It doesn't equally value the experiences of other players."
In concluding the session, Cook reiterated that the debate over terminology and dividing the player base will do more harm than good.

Emily Greer has a problem with calling "it" core. I assume "it" is the discussion on gaming in general, as well as the direction that the "industry" is going.

Daniel Cook: "It's hard to talk about these things logically when they are really, truly stupid tribal behaviors," he said. "I dislike these giant dichotomies. We have over a billion players. There's so many different groups playing games right now. Any time you split up the group to two - into us and them - you're doing a huge disservice to them and yourself."

Alright, so we have the overarching idea that gamers are gamers, despite Lee Perry stating that we're dealing with obviously different target audiences and Daniel Cook himself stating that anyone with +10 games in their library are of no use to "them".

They're (LaMer, Cook and Greer) conflating mobile and core gamers, while simultaneously writing off the core gamers as a target audience. Perry seems to be the only rational person here, admitting that there's a difference.
Basically they don't want others to call their target audience casuals, but Cook has no problem mentioning the "stupid tribal behaviour" which I assume he attributes to core gamers.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is another "gamers are over" narrative that serves no other purpose than giving Cook and his collegues the opportunity to lash out at core gamers, while desperately trying to claim that he's a "real" developer for "real" gamers.
It's moronic doublethink that probably helps Cook deal with his lack-of-selfworth complex of not being a big developer that produces massive products.
The real idiocy here is that only a few gamers, comparatively, have any issue at all with mobile developers or casual gamers. It's only an issue when ideology is being applied, using the casual group as numbers for showing how progressive the entire market is.

There is no issue here, as long as you distinguish between the two markets. Yes, there is a dichotomy and he himself is perpetuating it, yes there is a terminology, but as he says core gamers aren't relevant to him, so it should be absolutely irrelevant to him.

It's all nonsense and serves no purpose for non-mobile games and game developers, other than to set a tone that resonates with his own personal beliefs.

So lets see if I get this right here. People who buy more games more often don't matter because they aren't the largest group, but mobile platform isn't casual and it is divisive to look at it that way.

Well, gee, if you want to alienate people who buy more of your product more often compared to a slightly larger pool of far less likely buyers, you are going the right way. Can't imagine why you would intentionally piss on the group more likely to give you more money overall (someone who buys more games is far more likely to be a repeat customer, compared to the less-than-ten demographic which will always inherently shrink if they are buying your game) but hey, good job and keep up the good work. You'll but enough bullets into that foot yet.

This developers attempt to be witty fails at the start. You don't actually own any of your games on Steam, it is just ongoing subscription for your games. So according to him no-one using Steam is a core gamer.

Why do they bother holding a GDC any more?

The problem is that video games are still too young as a medium. It's still experiencing growing pains and people in the industry not being really clear on what their industry is.

The "casual vs core gamer" debate is pointless, especially when you're basing the demographic on something as broad and inspecific as "how many games you own." It'd be like dividing the movie-watching audience based on how many movies they watch. The movie-making industry is well developed, mature, and quite methodical in its marketing and direction - the videogame industry by comparison is a bunch of pubescent teenagers jerking themselves left and right with no idea what they're doing, while being very adamant that they know best.

And this leads developers into decisions and statements that make clear that they don't really understand what their industry is. Like, say, a studio known for triple-A big-budget games being worried they're falling behind in the casual online market. "Screw making the next Half-Life, we need to make more Farmville clones!" And not realizing that though both categories fall under the heading of "games", they're completely different industries with completely different audiences and goals.

It's like a movie studio deciding to ditch making the next Lord of the Rings to focus on making viral Youtube videos. Or a book publisher giving up putting out novels in order to focus on updating their micro-blogs. Yes, technically, movies and Youtube videos are both "moving pictures with sound." And novels and Twitter posts are both "words that mean things." But the differences are quite obvious, and those industries are mature enough and well-developed enough that the suits making the business decisions aren't stupid enough to throw away success in one to pursue vague ideas in the other.

But our beloved industry is still quite young - and stupid. We're just a bunch of horny teenagers, jumping onto anything and tossing into the wind.

Spry Fox:
the fact that the games market is now dominated by people who play one or two game

That's an interesting assertion.

But to quote JC Denton, "Do you have a single fact to back that up?"

Are we to believe the vast majority of people who play games just stick to one and only one?

Speaking as his co-founder, I can guarantee you that Daniel was NOT telling the audience "people who buy many games are too core for game developers." He'd be horrified by that assertion. He was making a joke, taken out of context in this article, about the fact that the games market is now dominated by people who play one or two games, like dedicated LoL, Hearthstone, Counterstrike, or Call of Duty players. Game developers like us are, not surprisingly, prone to owning and playing dozens if not hundreds of games, which makes us unlike the vast majority of people who play games. Danc was trying to use humor to remind the audience that what we like to play may not be what most other people like to play. It had absolutely nothing to do with "casual vs core" and in fact, later in that very same session he rejected the arbitrary distinctions between those groups.

I think people forget that GDC is not a PR exercise for many developers. We go there to hang out with each other and learn. We aren't carefully filtering everything we say just in case it gets taken out of context. But we're learning that we need to, as sad as that makes us.

TLDR, *obviously* if you buy a lot of games, game developers adore you. I dearly wish more people were like you. Unfortunately, indies are struggling in part because most people are *not* like you.

Hope that makes a little more sense now that you have the context. Sorry for the bruised feelings, it was very much unintended.

-Dave

FIDO a question. Also on phone so forgive me for not being outing you and trimming the post.

So how does this help them innovate? I mean all your posts are about the business side of it and that's cool. They want to make money, and more of it. Some call them out on it but they are a company, and of the day they need to make money, even if we voice our disgust at it.

But if you want to make money, come the hell out and say it. Cloaking it in this "You're the reason we aren't making new things" seems insulting. Oh really? How many Texas hold'em apps are there? How many Puzzle and Dragon clones along with Pokemon wanna be's? How many Clash of Clans and Age of War? Heck I recall one company having like 4 games; All the same just Wasteland, Space, Mafia and Dragon painted over it.

They want to make money hand over fist, go for it, try your luck in this gold rush before it's over. But don't say we "core gamers" are the reason you can't bloody innovate. That horse has been dead for sometime

Oh look, another buncha' guys talking about something that doesn't even matter. Oh hey, there's still Fallout to play.

*Proceeds to forget about whatever they were talking about*

Pinky's Brain:

F-I-D-O:
I also disagree that F2P should be separated. It's a valid design tactic, and a new way of looking at things.

It will never cease to be a soulkilling business with perverse incentives.

Again, I disagree. Done wrong, yes. Done properly, it opens the door for more consumers while allowing more options in how to pay. Example: Kamibox's "Okay?" and the "One more ___" series which rely on pay what you want or ad-supported avenues -> both free to play. For a microtransaction fueled game, I bring up Hearthstone. F2P is almost forced as the primary method on Android due to piracy problems, as being free at least makes it easier to download and advertise in official versions.

Note, I'm not defending microtransactions in full titles, I'm defending the space of F2P.
Also, what are the perverse incentives? To make money? What a shock. If they were tricking children into stealing credit cards we'd hear more than a story a year from some parent who turned off all apple/google wallet safety measures. Otherwise, its no different than a trading card or action figure market.

And for those policing his tone, again, its the Game Developers Conference, not the Press Conference. Talks are professional, but have a laid back tone. Taking this opening - where's he addressing people who likely have 100+ steam games because DEVELOPERS as gospel is like taking any TEDtalk hypothetical as a company's announcement. It makes a hell of a juicy headline, but you wouldn't say SNL is out of jokes because one of the writers had a talk literally about nothing.

Silentpony:
So I gotta ask...how is gaming still a thing? Like for once I'm not being negative. I'm actually curious. Devs don't care about gamers, not judging by the quality of recent game, do they actually care about games either.

Likewise gamers don't care about devs, and judging by sales figures and reviews, they don't care too much about games.

So how is this industry still going?!

You say you're curious, but your view seems to be largely influenced by your negativity. Devs still care about games, last year brought us a number of popular games that seemed to have a lot of care put into them: the Witcher, Bloodborne, undertale, Arkham Knight, MGS 5, the last two were screwed over by their publishers, but you can tell the devs obviously cared about the quality of the release. The industry is full of devs that care, they may fuck up, make stupid decisions, say stupid things, or get screwed by their publisher, but they still care about the games they make.

The statement about gamers is just cynicism and confirmation bias, you are only seeing what you want to see. Gamers are still buying games by the millions, breaking records in most demographics, the fastest selling game in history is only a few years old, the most highly awarded game just came out last year, and Ubisoft just released their fastest selling new IP. As for gamers, there is still tons of love for devs, seriously, I see tons of effusive praise for devs like CD Projekt Red, valve, massive, From software, and more, just because devs have critics and people that don't like them doesn't suddenly mean some significant portion of gamers now hates them. As for reviews, review bombing is a thing, it's rarely indicative of the overall quality of the game, just that some portion of the game has enraged a segment of its audience, people can babble all they want about how terrible Destiny is and how it's failing, that doesn't change the reality that the game sold millions of copies and still has an active player base large enough to make most MMOs bar WoW jealous.

Gaming has problems, it ain't anywhere close to perfect, but it is incredibly easy to see why it's still a "thing", because tons of people still love playing games, devs still love making them, and publishers are still making oodles of money off of them.

So I gotta ask...how is gaming still a thing? Like for once I'm not being negative. I'm actually curious. Devs don't care about gamers, not judging by the quality of recent game, do they actually care about games either.

Likewise gamers don't care about devs, and judging by sales figures and reviews, they don't care too much about games.

So how is this industry still going?!

F-I-D-O:
I also disagree that F2P should be separated. It's a valid design tactic, and a new way of looking at things.

It will never cease to be a soulkilling business with perverse incentives.

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