With the announcement of Wii Fit, the revelation that the next Zelda will be almost entirely stylus-controlled and Nintendo game-design legend Shigeru Miyamoto's affirmation that "the future is games that are not difficult and yet very fun to play," some have started to wonder if the Big N is abandoning hardcore gamers entirely.
Nintendo representatives declined to comment for this article, so we can't say for sure. As for Miyamoto's comments, however, they appear to be little more than a re-affirmation of what Nintendo has always stood for: simple, fun games that are instantly accessible to anyone. Crushing difficulty, after all, has never been a hallmark of any key Nintendo franchise. Even if Nintendo somehow ends up shutting out hardcore players entirely, though, there could be a silver lining: "Casual games... act as a 'gateway drug' for deeper, more involved games," said Payton.
Above: Is Brain Age really a gateway drug to more gaming? It did convince our mothers to buy themselves DSes...
Trussel echoed the sentiment. "What casual gaming has done is made gaming, in the broad general sense, better," he said. "First, it's brought the fun experience of games to a much wider audience that didn't have the time or inclination to make an investment in a deep game like Halo or World of Warcraft," Trussel said, "But more subtly, I think casual games will actually have an influence on hardcore game design. Some of the core principles of casual games - quick ramp-up with instant fun, playability in small chunks of time and ability to play across varying skill levels - are applicable to all games."
The bottom line is this: casual gaming, and the industry's push toward it, is more than just a fad or an unsustainable gold rush. It's here to stay. And that's good for the game industry as a whole, because the same can be said of traditional and hardcore games. There's no question they're getting easier, and as production values rise and epic games become more expensive to make, we're going to see fewer of them - it's a sad inevitability of rising costs and gamers who demand more of everything. But that doesn't mean hardcore games areon their way out the door, or that the tastes of the casual crowd will eventually dictate what Rockstar or Capcom feel safe putting on shelves. It all comes down to what gamers will buy, and so long as that holds true, we'll never have to worry about seeing a Halo 5 that's centered around a spirited game of Hearts between Master Chief and the Arbiter.