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The console market just expanded, thanks to...casual gamers?

This past Thanksgiving, the strangest thing happened to me: I got to witness the potential growth of a fledgling gamer. One of my family members (a 60-year-old aunt) is a passionate mobile gamer, Facebooker, and overall social media fiend. Like, the kind of gamer who's on her phone 24/7, playing anything that looks like Bubble Bobble or Bejeweled. Over the break, I stuck a Xbox 360 controller in her hands to play a game of Geometry Wars, and I'm pretty sure her brain exploded. Her excitement wasn't from the strobing, stroke-inducing lights of the game--it was from pure, unadulterated fun. Even though it took some time for her to acclimate to an input device that wasn't a touchscreen, I could see the seed had been planted. My aunt--like so many gamers who got their start on casual fare--seemed to be in the market for a new, richer experience. The kind that the Xbox One and PS4 could provide.

Today, MCVUK reported that the Xbox One and PS4 have already far surpassed the UK launch sales numbers of their respective predecessors. The PS4 sold a whopping 250K units and the Xbox One passed 150K within the first two days of their launch. The previous generation consoles took weeks to reach those numbers in the UK. That's a gigantic jump.

But how could this be? Where did all of these gamers come from? Haven't all of those games industry analysts and crystal ball-gazing mystics predicted that console gaming would be on the decline, and mobile gaming would rule all? Well, it doesn't look like it. And it seems that the 60 year-old gamer at my Thanksgiving table, and all the other folks like her, might've had something to do with the boost in next-gen launch sales. Could it be that the surge in last-gen's casual and mobile scene is finally helping console gaming?

Well, yeah. Even the PlayStation brand president said he wants casual games to succeed. Newer gamers are finding their way to the mainstream from all corners of the pastime, and it seems the expanding market is also increasing hardware sales. If a 60-year-old woman can pick up a 16 button Xbox 360 controller and successfully play a console game, that's one more potential console customer. These greenhorn gamers are finally starting to discover a world of gaming beyond the mobile and casual realms. The record launch sales of the next-gen consoles suggests that these gamers, too, want to play the next best thing.

Let's look at what happened over the last decade. The seventh console generation hit. The Wii opened up the floodgates and swept over just about every age bracket you could imagine (bowling grandpas and all). Mobile gaming exploded, pushing casual experiences nonstop until they eventually became the norm. Hardcore gamers continued to buy and love games, as usual. Then, the next gen consoles launched, and, holy shit, we're all surprised everyone wants one.

Before the last console generation happened, the gamer market was limited to a pool of mostly hardcore fans that were dedicated to getting the latest and greatest games and hardware. But now, the market's expanded to include older folks, mothers, even more girl gamers, and any other person that has a phone and a free minute on the crapper. Now, with the launch of the next-gen hardware, there's these new devices that hook into the TV, are easily accessible (seriously, you can just talk to them and they work), and let you access movies, music, and Skype, all from the comfort of your couch. Why wouldn't a casual gamer want one?

All of these new gamers are beginning to look forward to what's next, and it's apparent that Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles are catching their attention. What is also clear, is that the bite-sized mobile experiences and microtransaction-fueled "baby games" molded casual gamers, who then grew up to be console buyers. Finally, after years of watching mobile sales skyrocket and the casual market expand, companies like Microsoft and Sony can reap the benefits.

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15 comments

  • MaskedPheasant - December 3, 2013 12:29 p.m.

    Sony has recently been holding the line that they're not worried about mobile gaming as they believe people only ever move up the gaming hierarchy, never down. Someone who has spent years playing games such as GTA or The Last of Us is not going to suddenly spend their free time playing cow clickers on their phone for hours on end, whereas mobile gaming is a gateway to bigger and better things.
  • db1331 - December 3, 2013 8:47 a.m.

    I think people just get suckered in by the ads and the hype. My parents bought a Wii. They hooked it up, and never used it. Not once. I guarantee you that if I could find it today, there would not be a single second of any game played in the play history. Not even Wii Sports. The other day at a meeting at work, my boss' boss' boss, the big man in charge of the whole department, told me he had just pre-ordered an Xbox One on Amazon. He's probably around 60 years old, and doesn't play any games. He just wants to watch TV on it. I was dumbfounded.
  • Eightboll812 - December 3, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    What I'm about to point out doesn't explain your dept head's pre-order purchase, because that's pretty fricken hilarious to buy a Xbox to feed your set top box through it and nothing else. I think we could have found him a pretty slick universal remote product that has a smartphone app and he could have had lighting controls, TV controls, full home automation, and EVERYTHING all in one neat package in his hand, and he would have been happy as a clam. But that's not what I stopped by to post. What I was going to point out is that you get all these teen/20-something guys at Best Buy and they'll tell grandma and grandpa, "Oh, you need to buy THIS, for your TV...oh and don't skimp on the cable if you're buying such a nice entertainment setup, buy this MONSTER cable, and make sure you got the gold plated everything, because you wouldn't want your TV viewing compromised by a poor cable, right?" They pretty much take advantage of the naivete of the older generation, to sell them stuff they'll never use. It works too.
  • Sjoeki - December 3, 2013 8:42 a.m.

    My mom never got why I can really get into a game, but I have to say that for the last couple of years she actually likes to watch me play games, and if it is possible she wants to make the choices. She actually got mad at a NPC in Beyond: Two Souls. (that kid that you can kiss at the party, who moments later turns on you). And all of that started when she got facebook, she started playing farmvill and got hooked on it. I don't see her waiting in line to pick up a console, she still thinks it's a lot money to spend on a hobby. And she will never like games like GTA, but she can understand why I can get so invested in games like Mass Effect and The Walking Dead. Many family members have gone the same route and are more open to games now then they have been in the past, that is the biggest difference I noticed. They may not go out and buy a console, but they get why other people will.
  • db1331 - December 3, 2013 8:51 a.m.

    My wife is really weird when it comes to games. She is by no means a gamer, but every once in a while, she will want to play one of my games. When I brought home Super Mario Galaxy, I couldn't even play it myself, because she got addicted to it. She beat it within 5 days of me bringing it home. It was the first Mario game she had played since SMB 3 on the NES. She also loved watching me play Dark Souls, to the point that she asked to try it herself. You can imagine how that went. She liked watching me play RDR: Undead Nightmare as well, but she would have to leave the room sometimes if I had a close call, like when I got pulled from my horse and surrounded by zombies.
  • Eightboll812 - December 3, 2013 8:07 a.m.

    Look, the thing is, you really can't point to "fastest selling" to prove any point because right now, and also back then, every unit that was shipped to retail was instantly snapped up. So the 48 hours vs two weeks really only tells you that more units were ready at launch than the last gen launch. But this point is used to "show" such-and-such has higher demand or so-n-so is outselling some other company. Until we get past the point where you can actually find units on the shelves at your local store, you can't compare the data. For example, the two articles people are all up in arms over, are 1) the one about how Sony roundly spanked MS in the UK market, and 2) MS roundly spanking Sony on Black Friday sales. All that says, and not a word more, is that there were more units allocated for those markets or events. Because both are still sold out world wide. Sony shipped my units to the UK than MS did. MS made sure there was more Black Friday stock than Sony. Neither indicates greater "demand" since in both cases demand for both is far ahead of supply. If that point is still confusing, ask, if MS had shipped 250k units to the UK, would they all have sold out in 48 hours? Yes. So is it significant that Sony sold "more" there? No. It only tells you that the launch allocation was bigger from Sony.
  • TISAM2K10 - December 3, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    I don't know where else to post this: Fallout 4 teaser site: http://thesurvivor2299.com/ i checked up on it and the countdown for the announcement is the same day they announced skyrim, also I'm pretty sure Zenimax owns the website.
  • StrayGator - December 3, 2013 1:22 a.m.

    With adolescent (mentally or otherwise) males becoming a smaller percent of the "Gamer" demographic, hopefully the days of Treeneck McBrickeater are at end.
  • StrayGator - December 3, 2013 1:23 a.m.

    (...said a guy with Trevorine for avatar)
  • Swedish_Chef - December 3, 2013 12:37 a.m.

    Initial shock aside it's really not that surprising when you think about it that primarily casuals are picking up the systems right now, the casual market is much larger than the mid/hardcore market. Casual gamers tend to not dig nearly as much into games/systems before purchasing them, so a lot of the negative backlash that both of the next gen systems are receiving from the gaming community in both of them lacking in power, both of them suffering from heavy technical issues, the PS4's poor launch titles and Xbox One's original policies/crappy early showings etc, a lot of people in the casual market either don't know much about it or it doesn't matter to them. Meanwhile I struggle to find people I know in the hardcore market that have picked up a new system as they know that there's not enough titles right now to justify purchasing it and are waiting for more titles and the price to go down.
  • shawksta - December 2, 2013 10:17 p.m.

    I dont know where else to post this: Apparently Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze has updated its Box art, the European Boxart to be specific, and it has something interesting on it. It shows another character, who is POSSIBLY but NOT confirmed, to be the 4th character. Its possible given their position on the Box art swinging with Diddy DK and Dixie. It came out of nowhere and its pretty surprising, though again, nothing's confirmed but the art is pretty convincing, i went BANANA'S http://i.imgur.com/Bm3yGOw.jpg?1 Here's the source http://www.nintendo-town.fr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23054:la-jaquette-eur-officielle-de-donkey-kong-country-tropical-freeze-sur-wii-u&catid=84:wii2&Itemid=232
  • GR HollanderCooper - December 2, 2013 10:23 p.m.

    omg omgomg!
  • shawksta - December 2, 2013 8:15 p.m.

    Good, casuals or not, gaming needs to grow and it has, much better than long ago. Its for everyone, not specifics
  • BladedFalcon - December 2, 2013 7:27 p.m.

    Well... I admit this is a surprising turn of events in my eyes. Honestly, I am one of those people that thought the people who got hooked into casual gaming via Wii and cellphone games would never have bitten for console gaming, which is why I have never been interested in having the market cater to them overall... To hear that there ARE people who are now willing to buy consoles and try more complex games thanks to casual games definitely proves me wrong, and might make me re-asses the way I perceive those people. ...Of course, it remains to be seen just how many of these people are there in reality, but still, considering I expected the number to be negligible, I must concede that my Elitism worked against me.
  • Eightboll812 - December 3, 2013 7:52 a.m.

    I doubt it's veracity, since it's primarily based on an anecdotal (personal) story of an aunt, which didn't even turn into an actual console sale by that aunt (at least the article only speaks in terms of "possibilities" for that aunt, no mention of the aunt actually picking one up at the store). I do believe a good number of people, not even casuals per se, do buy it for the media features. But this is not "new". My own mom has two PS3s in her house and hasn't played a single game on them. She got her first even before I got a PS3, primarily as a Blu-ray player "that also plays games." Blu-ray for her, games for her grandson. The second was when the secondary "TV room" needed updating, and she repeated the purchasing decision for it. So, yeah, for years a lot of people have been buying PS3, driven by Blu-ray and Netflix, etc. But I don't know many of those who actually end up playing many games.

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