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General: Are MMOs Going To Get More Casual?

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,649MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

In his latest column, MMORPG.com's Sean Stalzer rhetorically asks whether or not today's MMOs are becoming more and more casual with each released title. Check out Sean's thoughts about the 'casualization' of MMOs and then let us know what you think in the comments below.

First, lets look at the question of whether or not the industry seems to be moving more casual? There is certainly a fair amount of evidence indicating a more casual gaming experience is both what players want and what the industry is seeking to figure out how to provide. The largest example of a shift in an existing game towards a more casual play experience is in WoW. There is a general consensus among players that it has become easier and more casual in the past few years. We've explored some of those ways in past columns so I won't rehash them here. When the "Big Dog" is shifting more casual that certainly makes other people turn their heads.

Read more of Sean Stalzer's Guild's Eye View: Are MMOs Going To Get More Casual?

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • hardiconhardicon jackson, MSPosts: 358Member

    The industry will be going more casual over the years simply because there are those of us cant play all day and night anymore, not even on the weekend.  on the weekends when im off i have to spend the day doing family stuff, at night though when the kids are in bed i like to play games, not watch tv, so i play my games. 

    The only thing I dont like is too many people think casual means simple or not challenging, even game companies, which is wrong.  I want challenging content, I want fights that are different mechanics and hard to pull off, I want fights that make you think outside the holy trinity box, I just dont want them to take all day and night, a one to 2 hour raid is plenty, there is no need for 20 bosses in a raid dungeon.  Blizzard cant figure that out but some companies have.  I have personally played city of heroes for quite a few years now, and that is the ultimately casual mmo, there are very few things you need a group for and it fits my playstyle perfectly.  I do long for those hardcore gaming sessions I had as a teenager and young adult but I chose to get married and have kids.  so far its been a good choice.

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    There's no reason why an MMO world can't have both hard-core and casual minigames. 

    One of the reasons I'm curious to watch the DUST experiment in Eve is that if it can be proven that you can integrate two seperate games into a single MMO universe, a single MMO economy, it could set off a wave of innovation in creating MMOs which are platforms for interlinking minigames.

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    What I miss is the definition of 'casual' because I often find out that it means diffrent things to diffrent people.

    Besides in diffrent game feature there is diffrent space for casual direction.

    F.e. - making more diverse end game content f.e. not only raids for 'hardcores' sure that can be see as more casual approach or more hardcore approach - depending on how you look at ti.

     

    Levelling and non-raid content difficulty - really is there a place here to make it more casual?

    Definately not by making levelling faster and content simpler because I don't see an inch of space for that here.

     

    Imho as potential consumer changes as loot of mmorpg consumers don't have much time to play but at the same time there still alot of new blood that can and want play long hours I certainly doubt that one game in future will be able to cater for both of those groups.

    WoW certainly did try by soloification and fast levelling for casuals and raid and instace grind for 'hardcores' but that got old and I don't think you can repeat success with this approach.

    Imho -deevelopers in future  will have to choose his target audience , mmorpg consumer crowd got so big that it will be harder and harder to cater for all.

  • DukeTyrionDukeTyrion LondonPosts: 82Member

    All I can hope is, that if the MMO scene continues down the path of 'the casual' welfare epic route, that at least one company will step forward and make a decent 'old school' MMO (like Vanguard without the failed launch).

     

    There are plenty of gamers out there who enjoy the long levelling curves on DAoC and Everquest, who do not really want to rush to the end game, but want to play a game where every level means something and the rewards are worthwhile, whether level 4 or level 40.

     

    Hopefully when that game does arrive (and I hope it does), it will have PvP, Housing, Collections and the likes, to keep every variety of gamer (who doesn't want to log on for 5 minutes and be given free stuff) a decent home.

  • Joshua69Joshua69 Greenfield, WIPosts: 953Member

    I think it is deff leaning more "casual". At this point, to many people are used to having things easy, and to go back to EQ or AC style is just not worth it. I do think however, that with SWOR trying to be innovative, and with Rift also trying some different things, we'll see more of a push for innovative ways to play, but will still be casual

  • JakdstripperJakdstripper logan lake, BCPosts: 2,126Member Uncommon

    yes they will.

  • KuaidamKuaidam San JosePosts: 183Member

    I consider myself a hybrid.

    I've had a funny working schedule for the past 9 years that let me play during early morning (8am-1pm) and late night (11pm-2am). I'm never home during the afternoons when most people are playing.

    Because of this, I've come to apreciate the value of both the casual (things to complete in a short period of time i.e. 30mins or less) and hardcore (things to complete in a longer period of time i.e. 2 hours)

    Mostly, my casual sesion comes in morning time and that is when I do my solo questing or group questing. maybe crafting if I choose any and one dungeon run provided I have enough time.

    At night is when I sit with a couple of 1L bottles of Ice Tea, some cinamon bread and play the shit out of dungeons or raids = Hardcore /flex

    SO! What to play? It seems that BioWare said "Let's create a game for good old Kuaidam."

    The design of SWTOR is just PERFECT for me.

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  • Z3R01Z3R01 NYC, NYPosts: 2,426Member

    Right now the biggest complaint is that sooner or later mmos require you to rely on other players to continue your progress.

    In the future this wont be something we have to deal with.

    Now before you jump all over me let me explain.

    Relying on others doesnt mean grouping up.

    As a casual i can queue up randomly for a dungeon or a instanced pvp map, i can join a public group for a zone event and what not.

    These are ways that i can log in when i want, play with other people and still progress on my time.

    Things like Raiding and fix team based ladder progression are two aspects of mmos that need to go. they require players to log in at a certain time on a schedule to do anything.

    We need to move away from that. make everything PUG friendly. 

    Playing:

    Waiting on:

  • VengerVenger York, PAPosts: 1,318Member

    Here is how I see it.  I started in UO which imho it was casual friendly.  You could log on for what ever amount of time you had and do something.  Maybe you didn't gain that .1 skill every time you did but you did get something, gold, resources, etc.  It was slow but you never were doing nothing unless you choose to.

    They in comes EQ which took the genre to the extreme other end of time sinks.  Not being able to wipe your own ass alone, the constant down time, the tiny box that it put grouping into via classes (roles) and levels.

    Now we are in gut check going back but it has gone much further then it should of.  Unfortunetly mmo have become ADHD friendly not casual friendly.

  • JudasaceJudasace New York, NYPosts: 53Member

    The hardcore market is tiny. Any game catering to them will never be more than a niche product in comparison to products taht appeal to casuals. But that's true with  every form of entertainment...TV shows that are heavily serialized attract less viewers than those that are mainly episodic. The more that people have to invest, either in time, effort or thinking, the less people will be interested.

    It doesn't mean there isn't a market for those things, but they will always struggle financially and there won't be as many of them as some people would like.

    People will have to accept that "hardcore games" at their absolute pinnacle, the best-of-the-best smash hits of the genre will top out at a half million subs. Most others will sit between 50 - 150k. If people can live with that, and stop defining anything that doesn't reach WoW level subs as a "failure" then they'll be fine. But as long as they continue to judge this niche market by an unrealistic yardstick, they'll keep jumping from game to game looking for "The Next Big Thing" that will probably never arrive.

  • redpinsredpins Clovis, CAPosts: 147Member

    I think that the problem is TRYING to suck up as much "Casual" as it can be. MMORPG requires X hours of dedication, as does any game. The difference was that a story was told in a open world universe other players could login and interact with. Today, developers lost that meaning and are trying to suck up as much paying customers as they can. As a result you get people who need x hours to play x amount of hours per month, and people who are willing to pay and support your game by buying x amount of items per month.

    Let's not trade blows here, let's observe why casual doesn't work. MMORPG should be content heavy, resulting in "Casual" not even being able to explore it as fast as hard core. The content that "generates" immersion simply can't be turned on and off at the whim of the user. If you want players to be immersive, you will need to hook them for X hours. Simply put, Casual thinks they can login for 5 minutes and dominate, but when they fail at that, they cry "unfair". Sometimes these casuals ruin a game, but mostly its the complaints of the hard core elitists.

    I think mmorpgs should go away from trying to suck up casual and start striving to create a audience that is dedicated. I don't care if Billy is a millionaire, if he doesn't support my game by buying items and only logs in 15 minutes a day, I really don't care about him. I provided enough content for immersion, and solved Billy's problems. It's really up to Billy to either play more or shut up and spend a few bucks to compete against any hackers or hard core.

    I struggle not with life, money, emotions, and world, but against old mindsets and selves to be proven obsolete in a age and time of rapid changes. Go create fun, so you can have fun.

  • IsturiIsturi Phoenix, AZPosts: 1,509Member

     

    It can go both ways. Yes MMO's that are casual are growing in numbers. And yes they do have fans but they do not share a huge slice of the MMO pie for say because of there limited game play of being just that casual.

    On the other hands games like WoW started off hard core and is now turned to more of a casual game for most is STILL doing very well at the box office. Now for future titles like ToR or GW2 etc I hope they maintain the fact that they have to be hard core to not only survive but to grab a very big piece of the MMO pie.

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  • IcewhiteIcewhite Elmhurst, ILPosts: 6,403Member

    Originally posted by Sulaa

    What I miss is the definition of 'casual' because I often find out that it means diffrent things to diffrent people.

    It absolutely does.  The most slippery label ever invented.

    Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.

  • Yellowman26Yellowman26 HalsteadPosts: 23Member

    One thing I wonder on is how will causal style gaming change server wise? Will there be more open sandbox games, or will there still be a lot of server style gaming like blizzard? Eve being an sandbox has things that can be done in a few minutes, or you can still be doing bloody hours later.  WOW can also be like this, but, you can be relying on when people are on for raiding or activites like that, so it may find more server merges. Eve being open to whole world, you can normally find someone, somewhere.

     As has been pointed out, things have changed in WOW (and changes in EVE, Incarna is a step  in the direction for causal style gaming I feel) So the question I got, is not when MMOs get more causal, but when you got MMOs like EVE and WOW that have been around for a while and can provide the hardcore that some people like still, (when ripping my comment to shreds notice I said some people) are adopting a more causal feel, but the hardcore gamers now, and the hardcore gamers to come, will still feel fufilled?

  • itgrowlsitgrowls newport news, VAPosts: 2,951Member

    mmo devs are just going to have to contend with the new lives of the player base, in rl people who used to be hardcore players are now being affected by the new economy, no one is able to just sit around at home anymore, most of us have more then one job. I'm one of them. So now when i can play i play games that are Freemium or F2P and i play when i can. I'm no longer in raids because i can't guarantee when i will be on or available and since getting less free time i have learned that it's much more fun for me to be on multiple games playing only one at any particular time but switching as i wish. 

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 18,045Member Uncommon

    I think many confuses time consuming and hard. You can still make a hard game that doesn't force people to put the amount of time in as many older games did. The word casual seems to say that future MMOs will be fast, short and easy.

    Of course, almost all games are easier now than just 15 years ago, already the first Diablo was a lot harder than almost all games today.

    I think another problem is how MMOs today are made, they seems to stress people to reach the endgame as fast as possible. The more focus you put on an endgame and the less you put on the journey there the shorter they will make the journey.

  • sdsbatessdsbates ChelmsfordPosts: 17Member

    I think its hard to cater for hardcore and casual gamers in a single MMO. Its difficult for an MMO to give any sort of 'epic' feeling in a short period of time. For example in Warhammer online the PvP felt epic when raiding keeps/defending keeps for hours on end. But the scenarios were fairly short and didnt have many epic moments in them.

    A lot of gamers who enjoy MMOs (me included), have limited time to play them, i enjoy raiding, and the hard fights when in a group. But after doing a 13 hour day at work all i want is a quick fix, obviously i wont be raiding, but just doing a few quests and a little PvP doesnt float my boat!

    How can MMOs make an hours play feel epic?

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Originally posted by Loke666

     

    I think another problem is how MMOs today are made, they seems to stress people to reach the endgame as fast as possible. The more focus you put on an endgame and the less you put on the journey there the shorter they will make the journey.


     

    Yeah and faster the journey is faster games will lose subscribers. On one side many ppl think rpg=levels and on the other hand levelling itself mean alot of content and developer time wasted.

    By making things easier and faster developers get more potential customers but on the other hand they are more pressured to pump new content faster and retention rate is lower.

    Let's face it WoW  is abdomination that won't repeat itself , there won't be a game that has 70% of western market again in future.  Without one game to "fall back to" things might get diffrent.

    Besides from my experience it is not casuals who want to level faster - hardcore raiders/pvp's want to level faster, most casual players I've met don't care about hitting level cap as soon as possible. One thing to think about...

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 18,045Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Sulaa

     

    Yeah and faster the journey is faster games will lose subscribers. On one side many ppl think rpg=levels and on the other hand levelling itself mean alot of content and developer time wasted.

    By making things easier and faster developers get more potential customers but on the other hand they are more pressured to pump new content faster and retention rate is lower.

    Let's face it WoW  is abdomination that won't repeat itself , there won't be a game that has 70% of western market again in future.  Without one game to "fall back to" things might get diffrent.

    Besides from my experience it is not casuals who want to level faster - hardcore raiders/pvp's want to level faster, most casual players I've met don't care about hitting level cap as soon as possible. One thing to think about...

    I never really said the casual players wanted to max out fast, I said that the devs wanted them to max out.

    Anyways I think the endgame focus we seen lately seriously is hurting the genre. The games feels more and more like a hamsterwheel.

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Originally posted by sdsbates



    I think its hard to cater for hardcore and casual gamers in a single MMO. Its difficult for an MMO to give any sort of 'epic' feeling in a short period of time. For example in Warhammer online the PvP felt epic when raiding keeps/defending keeps for hours on end. But the scenarios were fairly short and didnt have many epic moments in them.



    A lot of gamers who enjoy MMOs (me included), have limited time to play them, i enjoy raiding, and the hard fights when in a group. But after doing a 13 hour day at work all i want is a quick fix, obviously i wont be raiding, but just doing a few quests and a little PvP doesnt float my boat!



    How can MMOs make an hours play feel epic?


     

    Well , unsolvable problem imho. Ofc you can do one normal instance but would that feel 'epic' for you? guess it might not...

    People want same feeling like they got in past when they played for hours, well you can't get it anymore imho. Ofc games getting easier can cater by making entertaiment faster & easier or just putting 'epic' award in itme shop to buy. But will that give you same satisfaction like in past when you got your reward after long effort? I don't think so...

    Imho mmorpg's have to start targetting specific player groups as mmorpg community gets more polarized , becasue creating a game for 'everyone' will just get harder and harder as mmorpg community grows.

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Originally posted by Loke666



    Originally posted by Sulaa

     

    stuff

    I never really said the casual players wanted to max out fast, I said that the devs wanted them to max out.

    Anyways I think the endgame focus we seen lately seriously is hurting the genre. The games feels more and more like a hamsterwheel.


     

    Yeah I agree. Partially it might be becasue : creating mmorpg's is more and more costly so experimenting might be 'harder' and on the other hand creating next instance cluster , daily quests , gear tiers ,etc is easy.

    I agree this is hurting the genre and it is already stopping to work on playerbase as alot of players had this kind of experience in past in WoW or some other themepark , even casuals.

  • MassManMassMan newyorkPosts: 10Member

    Soapbox: Why Virtual Worlds are Designed By Newbies - No, Really!

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2157/soapbox_why_virtual_worlds_are_.php

     

    This article from 2004 explains why mmos are going to cater more and more to the casuals. Does a better job than the coloum we're replying to imho.

  • daltaniousdaltanious waPosts: 2,145Member Uncommon

    Well casual for me mean for working people or in any case somebody that has to do something else in life other then playing and planning for weeks raiding and alike. In this perspective ... I love casual games. But this does not mean shallow, crippled, ... or whatever.

  • GolelornGolelorn Hiding From Social Media Peeping Toms, ALPosts: 1,099Member Uncommon

    If done right I think its a good thing. If done wrong, like most games that try to be ultra-casual, then it sucks.

    If a game is going to be casual it needs to be done for the end game, too. Nothing is worse than spending 3-4 months really enjoying a game only to find out that to progress any further one must make a commitment that rivals career, parenthood and marriage obligations.

    I play games when I have time, and its impossible to progress in these raid oriented games when I only log in on my erractic play "schedule". There are no good games,imo, that just allow a person to play and progress at his own pace.

  • nate1980nate1980 Evans, GAPosts: 1,829Member

    Originally posted by hardicon

    The industry will be going more casual over the years simply because there are those of us cant play all day and night anymore, not even on the weekend.  on the weekends when im off i have to spend the day doing family stuff, at night though when the kids are in bed i like to play games, not watch tv, so i play my games. 

    The only thing I dont like is too many people think casual means simple or not challenging, even game companies, which is wrong.  I want challenging content, I want fights that are different mechanics and hard to pull off, I want fights that make you think outside the holy trinity box, I just dont want them to take all day and night, a one to 2 hour raid is plenty, there is no need for 20 bosses in a raid dungeon.  Blizzard cant figure that out but some companies have.  I have personally played city of heroes for quite a few years now, and that is the ultimately casual mmo, there are very few things you need a group for and it fits my playstyle perfectly.  I do long for those hardcore gaming sessions I had as a teenager and young adult but I chose to get married and have kids.  so far its been a good choice.

     I agree with you. I've played MMO's for almost a decade now. I no longer feel like spending several hours a day grinding away in a game as my life passes me by. However, I still enjoy the genre and would like to still play it. I don't like how easy and casual are thought the same by game developers. I may only spend 1-2 hours a day in a MMO, but I want to be challenged while I'm playing.

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