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FEATURE: Creating apps for the mid-core gamers

Way back in 2008, developers Steve and Jeff Fulton wrote the ‘mid-core gamer manifesto’ and posted it on their blog.

They declared themselves to be neither hardcore gamers nor casual gamers, and coined the term ‘mid-core’ to describe their gaming habits. The casual crowd considered them hardcore and the hardcore players thought they were casual, they said.

Personally, I think Steve and Jeff were just reflecting a long-ignored middle ground of game players who are passionate about gaming, but have to fit it around other commitments in their lives.

The mid-core gamer manifesto encapsulated what Steve and Jeff wanted in a game and I think it reflected how a lot of players were feeling in 2008. The term has even been accepted into Wikipedia, following discussion of the concept in various publications and blogs.

It’s interesting to look back at the manifesto now (as Steve and Jeff did in June), because it shows just how much the gaming industry has changed. The kind of things that mid-core gamers were requesting in 2008 are exactly the kind of things we take for granted in the mobile game industry today.

For example: the ability to save at any time (particularly important in mobile gaming because your bus might arrive any minute, forcing you to stop playing); and having affordable prices (gaming apps have a lower cost base and are much cheaper than boxed product). For people who play mainly on mobile devices, these would be assumed to be facts of life today.

Some of the other points in the manifesto are less relevant to the mobile ecosystem, but I think the growth of mobile gaming is arguably a result of developers creating mid-core games for mobile devices: games you can be obsessed by, but can switch on or off at any time; games that reward the time you spend with them, but do not demand hours of time to get started.

People who want to play hardcore games will buy a console. People who buy a computer or other device and just want to play a few games on it are more likely to be attracted to mid-core games, and will enjoy experimenting with fun experiences available in the app store.

So, what does this mean for game developers? Having read the mid-core manifesto, I have a few tips for developers:

• Games have to be convenient to play. Make it easy for people to drop in and out of the game. Don’t waste time with endless splash screens or even cut scenes: get to the action quickly, and make it simple for players to save and come back again later.

• Don’t underestimate your players. Just because players want to play in bite-sized chunks, it doesn’t mean they’re looking for simple games, necessarily. It’s okay for a game to be taxing and immersive, as long as the player is in control of when they dip in and out of the experience.

• Prioritise gameplay. Graphics aren’t as important as having good gameplay, as many of the platforms that have emerged in recent years have shown. Handheld and portable devices might not have the best graphics, but players don’t mind as long as the gameplay experience is solid. Graphics need to be good, but they don’t need to be fantastic.

• Test your game with mid-core gamers. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re probably more committed to playing your game than your typical customer will be. Ask some mid-core gamers, people who enjoy games but can’t commit a lot of time or money to them, to try your game. Get them to take it out and about on their mobile devices, so they can let you know if it fails in the real world.

The app store model has not only opened the market up to lots of developers who couldn’t previously get their games out there. It’s also opened up gaming to lots of new people who have found that they match the descriptions in the mid-core manifesto: people who enjoy gaming but can’t consider it a top priority. There are huge opportunities if you can create games that appeal to this new market.

This blog post is written by Softtalkmobile, and is sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program, a single channel for distributing apps to multiple devices, multiple operating systems, and multiple app stores.

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