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Casual games are getting serious

Casual games are getting serious
On one hand, we have the likes of Crysis, MotorStorm and Gears of War – technological marvels that whip up enthusiast gamers into an excited froth. And that’s great – but will these games ever attain the mainstream recognition of easily-accessible classics like Tetris?

Among gamer and games industry circles sure; but ask your mum and she’ll most likely think that MotorStorm is a particularly nasty jam on the M56.

Many people just can’t be bothered to learn complex button combinations or spend hours and hours traipsing around a fantasy world levelling up.

A year ago I remember making a mental note of every DS I saw ‘in the wild’; now I’ve stopped counting. They’re everywhere. And it’s surely no coincidence that this most ‘casual’ of consoles has become such a success.

Add this to the rise and rise of online portals like Popcap, Pogo, Mumbo Jumbo and, more recently, Sky Games and you’ve got a movement towards simplistic, easy-to-play games that just can’t be ignored.

Eidos, Ubisoft and EA have all been in the pages on MCV over the past few months announcing their intentions in this space; and Nintendo’s successes in this particular area are there for all to see.

It is time for casual games to be fully recognised as a category in itself. And Microsoft’s new-found commitment to the cause is indicative of that.

Microsoft won’t say as much itself, but there is a finite limit to what any console can achieve in the core gamer’s market – to take things to the next step, as EMEA boss Chris Lewis admits in our cover story, it needs to offer much more than that.

The 360 is crying out for its very own SingStar or Nintendogs.
Lewis tellingly describes a “peripheral-based gaming experience” when talking about its casual games push – a phrase that carries echoes of Wii and EyeToy-style functionality.

Sadly, we’ll just have to wait until E3 to find out exactly what he means.

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