“Hard coreâ€￾ and “casualâ€￾ game on the same site?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by James C. Smith, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    “Hard core†and “casual†games on the same site?

    There has been a lot of talk lately about the lack of portals for downloadable games targeted at hard core gamers. Or put another way, there is no good website to sell a downloadable shooter. It got me thinking about whether or not a games web site should have a target audience. I think a downloadable game site should target people who want to play downloadable games. But should it be specialized to a specific type of downloadable games? Do movie rental stores specialize in specific types of movies? Is Hollywood Video for comedy movie fans and Blockbuster for Action movies? No. Does Amazon.com specialize and fiction books while BarnesAndNoble.com targets readers of non-fiction books? No. I guess you could say that most large retailers focus on products with mass market appeal, but there are usually smaller retails with niche focuses. Brick and mortar Barns and Nobel stores only stocks books with mass market appeal (whether they are romance novels, history books, or reference manual for programmers) but SciTeck Books specializes in only non-fiction books related to scientific and technical issue, many of which can’t be found in a Barns and Nobel store.

    There will always be downloadable game stores and web sites specializing in niche types of games. But are shooters and other “hard core†games really that specialized? Don’t they have broad enough appeal that a large portal could sell a lot of them? I believe that some day soon a big downloadable games web site will be large enough to support all games genres. No matter what type of downloadable game you want, you know you can find it at BigGamesPortal.com just like how you can find any book under the sun at Amazon.com. Some people will argue that even though a virtual web store can stuck an infinite variety of games, there is precious limited space for advertising the games. There will always be a top 10 list on the front page and therefore only those 10 games will sell well. Some how BarnsAndNobel.com and Amazon.com have gotten around that problem. Amazon has great tools for dynamically generating a page of stuff relevant to you (the current visitor) rather than a simple top 10 list of the best sellers on the whole web site. When downloadable games web sites get better at customizing page content for the individual visors, it will broaden the scope of the types of games that can sell on the site.

    I don’t think the world needs a portal specializing in hard core genres such as RTS, RPG, and FPS. A niche portal like that might be successful, but I think it would be more successful to have portal large enough to support puzzle games and RPGs. It should be possible assuming you make back end tools similar to what Amazon.com uses to help visors find things relevant to their taste.
     
    #1 James C. Smith, Jan 13, 2005
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2005
  2. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    (I hate to sound like an advertisement for Reflexive Arcade, but it is the only downloadable games web site I have detailed data on.)

    There is this myth that only puzzle games and “casual†games sell well on large downloadable games web site and there is no place to sell a “shooterâ€. For what it’s worth, there are a lot of “action†games in the top sellers list in Reflexive Arcade and many of them are “shootersâ€. The top 20 selling games include Swarm (think Asteroids), Platypus, Wik & The Fable of Souls, Crimsonland, Alien Shooter, and 3 variations of Ricochet (break out). You may think that 90% of the sales come from the top 5 or 10 games, and therefore the top 20 isn’t very relevant. That isn’t the case with Reflexive Arcade because it has many different “channels†or “affiliatesâ€. Some channels specialize in more casual games and some push the more hard core games. As a result, there is a more even distribution of sales but it is still somewhat top heavy. During the period sampled here, 153 different games sold at least 1 unit each. The top 20 games accounted for 70% of the sales and the top 10 games accounted for 50% of the sales. The top 10 games include Crimsonland, Alien Shooter, and 3 different version of Ricochet. The bottom half of the top 20 includes Swarm, Wik, and Platypus.

    Note: I don’t consider Ricochet to be a hard core game or a shooter. But it is more action oriented than the typical “casual†game space which is dominated by puzzle game. Crimsonland and Alien Shooter are much more hard core but still appeal to the Ricochet dominated audience of the Reflexive Arcade.
     
  3. BongPig

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well... thats swayed my opinion somewhat.:)
     
  4. Triple_Fox

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm reminded of the "Long Tail" effect....it did get mention here previously - Amazon is a prime example of this effect, which allows online retailers with "infinite" shelf space to build a business from disparate niches. It should apply equally well to a portal site....draw in gamers with the best of the schlock they expect out of indies, but then build a more varied audience out of that by also including the esoteric, experimental, small-niche games, losing a few bucks at the start so that the customers bridge the gap and start getting into their niches.
     
  5. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    3,392
    Likes Received:
    6
    I think it depends. It depends how big the audience is. The problem is one of virtual shelf space. You could just as easily say why do we need a store to sell electronic goods and another to sell sporting goods. Why not just have one big store that sells both? And of course such stores that don't specialize do exist.

    But consider the problems of having 1 general download site that sells every kind of game. It means that some of the time people looking only for action games will be pitched on card games and other products that really don't interest them. That means that the ideal Crimsonland customer might only see an ad for spider solitaire and you lose a sale as a direct result of trying to sell that person something that they aren't interested in. It also means that that person may not be as interested in re-visiting the site. A site that caters very specifically to their needs is more likely to draw repeat traffic from them.

    I suspect the audience for harder core downloadable games is large enough to warrant a specific site, but there are other ways to deal with this problem. The portals people visit today are not very sophisticated.

    If I go to realarcade and buy star monkey, crimsonland, alien shooter, and space taxi, the next time I visit realarcade I'm just as likely to see an ad for bejeweled or iggle pop as any other customer. Consider how Amazon.com tailors the shopping experienced based on a users recent searches and purchases on the site. Much smarter. If I've never bought a card game I'm just as likely to get a newsletter pitching me on spider solitaire adventure as any other customer. I don't have any options as a customer to list my interests either. It's all just based on average best sales. There's very little customer interest targeting being done. A dedicated genre site is targeted to the interests of it's customers by default. And if there are enough people interested in the sorts of things the dedicated site sells then you can make a real business out of it.

    Lastly I think you have to consider advertising. Portals like realarcade and bigfish advertise heavily on generic sites like download.com and many others. A portal dedicated to selling action games might get more out of their money by targeting their advertising on deathmatch sites, gamespot's action section, computer mags etc... The audience looking for downloadable action games might not seem large enough to warrant a specific site, but there's not enough good crimsonland style product for them, and they haven't been catered directly to in a way to really foster the market.
     
  6. GameStudioD

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    0
    Blockbuster has been around for awhile and only carries one type of movie (over many genres): hollywood movies or movies from the larger straight to video companies. When you walk into Blockbuster, you expect to find those kinds of movies. There still exists many successful video store that cater to the hardcore movie fan (no pun intended), such as Anime or Independent films. An anime video store will have the latest animes and anime related items. These same anime titles will probably not do very well at Blockbuster because they cater to a completely different audience.

    This is the same idea with games. Casual gamers and hardcore games have different goals. One wants to sit down for a few minutes and the other wants to sit for a few hours and oggle over nice graphics. It would be a complete waste of a casual gamer's time to have World or Warcraft next to Bejeweled 2, its just not what they want.

    Although, there are many games that are in the middle. Softcore games, I guess. Platformers, shooters, etc. That, I think, would do well next to Bejeweled 2. These softcore games just dont have their own space right now. But, someone will come and fill that need eventually.
     
  7. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    3,392
    Likes Received:
    6
    It's interesting to note that video stores that cater to particular groups exists and generally only in large cities. The same is true of science fiction bookstores and the like. If the city is large enough you can focus on a sub-group. In a small town you can't. With the net the potential audience is the entire world. I definitely think one could have more specifically targeted game sites. I think the real problem right now is a lack of quality downloadable content. But it's a catch 22. Not enough good places to market means not enough people making good games of that type means less interest in setting up a place to market. I think ideally someone starting it up would contact companies like reflexive and pay outright for games like space tripper 2, crimsonland 2 on an exclusive basis and then launch with 4-5 exclusive titles and invest in the site long enough to build and audience and get it to a point where its self sustaining. Could take many months of no-profitability to set up.
     
  8. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is a sub-culture of movie consumers who prefer indie films over “Hollywoodâ€￾ films and there will always be a similar sub-cutler for indie games. There will be some types of games that don’t do well enough in big main stream game portals. But I think the big mainstream game portals can support a lot more variety of game genres than people currently give them credit for. There is no reason that “deepâ€￾ games and shooters can’t do well in the main stream portals. Not everyone in the main stream wants “coffee breakâ€￾ games that can be picked up for a while and dropped 10 minutes later. Some portals found one type of game that sells well and they aren’t willing to try others in a serious way. It becomes a self reinforcing prophecy as they build a larger audience who prefer the narrow types of games that are already on the portal. Other startups try focus on “hard coreâ€￾ games or “indieâ€￾ games but is hard to overcome all the initial investments costs and build robust systems without a big customer base.

    Like I said, a site that tries to cater to more types of game consumers will have to have much more dynamic contents. Showing the same list of top 10 games to every visitor isn’t going to cut it. To be successful, the site will have to make sure NOT to show spider solitaire to a Crimsonland fan unless he digs really deep to find it. All the games sites out there right now, include my company’s site, are very static and primitive compared to something like Amazon. We all push games the customer already has, and games they have no interest in. We all show the same list of games to every visitor. It doesn’t have to be that way. Setting up a different web site for every type of game interest seems less efficient than making a big site that adapts to the interest of each visitor. You could use the revenue generated by the puzzle games to build a more robust systems for selling “hard coreâ€￾ games.
     
  9. KNau

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,165
    Likes Received:
    2
    From what I understand it's pretty easy to create a MySQL database that would let users define their own tastes and have the website cater to that dynamically (I have a tutorial in a magazine that shows how to do just that) but the challenge is that you really need to have at least 20 - 50 games in your library to make it worthwhile. If you only have 10 - 15 games it's easier to just show the whole list to the user than bother with fancy solutions.

    At the same time, it would be a good solution for big affiliate sites to employ since it would avoid users having to click on a genre and then cycle through huge lists of games. But then can an affiliate-only business (without any exclusive content) bring in enough customers to make the time and technology investment worthwhile?
     
  10. Nutter2000

    Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    993
    Likes Received:
    3
    I agree that individual sites for genres is in-efficient to the site owner, however, for the developer it represents more exposure to the right audience.
    Until the affiliate sites start providing a mechanism to promote any "hardcore" games on their sites then any game of that nature will die a death and so those affiliate sites won't risk having them. Like sevro said it's a chicken and egg situation.
    Reflexive isn't so bad as it does at least have the categories for strategy and other hardcore games but Real, Yahoo games, etc are very focused on the casual market.
    Since most developers don't have access to the inner workings of Real and Yahoo then suggesting a new site for hardcore games is the best of a bad situation.

    I think it's well worth any of the affiliate sites trying customer focused marketing, I can't see that they'd have anything to loose, in fact I'll go so far as to say that they're loosing customers by NOT enhancing their sites this way. Perhaps an opportunity for Reflexive to become more powerful than we can possibly imagine? ;)

    I'm not convinced your video store analogy is quite accurate. The situation is more akin to a video store only showing chick flicks and not having any action films or horror films.
     
    #10 Nutter2000, Jan 13, 2005
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2005
  11. princec

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,873
    Likes Received:
    0
    Spot on. Blockbuster is the bricks 'n' mortar equivalent of Realarcade. The stuff in Blockbuster really is just the usual Hollywood rubbish.

    The same goes for music. All the really interesting stuff starts out in little shops selling indie labels.

    Cas :)
     
  12. papillon

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Messages:
    2,193
    Likes Received:
    0
    Uh.... while it's been a while since I was in one, I certainly was able to rent anime and strange little-known foreign films at Blockbuster. Now, if you wanted something really specific you might have to check every BB in town (the staff were usually nice enough to check the database and tell me that the one thirty minutes away had one) or you might be out of luck, but they certainly had things other than just the latest hollywood smash. They'd have MORE COPIES of the latest big movies, and made them much more visible, but if you were willing to look around the store, you could find quite a lot...

    So - would it hurt Big Fish if they had a small link on the side with their list of genres that said RPG? If they didn't go out of their way to advertise them, but they were there for those that bothered to look? I don't know, because I don't know enough about brand dilution studies, etc.
     
  13. princec

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,873
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've been through this exact hurdle very recently. I wanted people to affiliate Super Dudester - the only file that needed to be hosted was a tiny 1kb JNLP file. But no-one wanted to host it. I enquired of one or two people and the reasons were a) inexplicably so scared of Java that they feared customers would never return and b) the threat of accidentally selling my game instead of one of their own - which I really didn't understand.

    I think HunterSD said something about "opportunity cost".

    So while Blockbuster may have a few Anime titles in store, the chances are they haven't got very many compared to a specialist, simply because fans of specific genres often have specialist stores catering for their needs already. Why should Blockbuster waste valuable shelf/advertising space on a tiny niche market?

    Cas :)
     
  14. EpicBoy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    624
    Likes Received:
    0
    If anime is popular enough to support a small store on its own merits, it certainly isn't niche.
     
  15. Yossarian

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Messages:
    179
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is a fairly simple way for portals to try this out:

    1. Set up categories for each games. The more the better, needs to be a little more specific than "strategy". If each game can be categorized in 4 or 5 different areas this will be much more effective.

    2. The first time a user does a search, or downloads a game, the server takes the categories searched on or from the game downloaded and builds a "profile" for the user and stores this both on the server and in a cookie.

    Future searches or downloads will further refine the "user preferences".

    3. A new "Top 5" list is built for the user by pulling other relevent games out of the system that match up in 3 to 5 of the categories the user selects, and then displays though prominently at the bottom of all game view pages, and at the top of the main page and section pages.

    This will give users quick, targeting lists of games they might be interested in based off of their own browsing and downloading habits.

    Storing this "profile" data will also give very invaluable insight into what users are looking for, and how certain games fit into genres and the overall audience of a portal.

    This is the same basic concept that Amazon.com uses. They use your searches, mixed with their database of other user searches to provide you with pretty good lists of other products that you might be interested in. I know I've successfully been sold other products by them in this fashion, and I also find it interesting to see what other amazon users with my same tastes are purchasing.

    A couple of the portals I've seen have done this already in very limited fashions, but they seem to be pushing just one or two other directly linked games, and aren't nearly this dynamic.
     
  16. princec

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,873
    Likes Received:
    0
    I disagree. Supporting niches is precisely how small stores survive. Chain stores pander to the masses. Delicatessens stock the wierd and wonderful, supermarkets stock bread & butter.

    Cas :)
     
  17. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    3,897
    Likes Received:
    0
    merely having the title on the roster somewhere isn't enough to attract the hardcore gamer. RealArcade still carrie starlines iNC, but its never on the front page, its never mentioned in their emails, its never a featured review, its never mentioned in their adverts, its not triggering realarcade google adwords... I could go on.

    RealGames et al might kid themselves that they cater for a hardcore or RPG or Sim audience because they bury some category somewhere, but they do nothing to encourage those genres to flourish and everything to discourage people who are into niche gaming. If I go to a new portal site and see Zuma, Bejewelled, Ricochet and Alien Shooter on the front page, I'm 99% certain the site isn't going to ahve ANYTHING new or niche that I'd be interested in, do I'll leave.
    When you find a site that specialises in strategy games, its way easier to find what your looking for. I think a targeted niche portal would do better than just tacking on some category pages inside a casual puzzle game portal.
     
  18. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    3,392
    Likes Received:
    6
    I think James is right when he says that there's room for more mainstream retail style titles to do well on the current crop of sites. I would argue that a lot of the rpg, sim, and action games that have been produced over the last few years haven't really come to terms with the differences between a game you download and buy online and a game you buy on a CD and don't really cater to a download audience, regardless of the style of game the target customer likes. But cliff is also right. There's no focus and sales are being lost. Games that could sell better are not being fully exploited because they're passed over in favor of games that sell better to a very general audience. I think advertising is an important part of that. If you had $100,000 to advertise Crimsonland and only Crimsonland, you'd probably not spend the money in the same places you would advertising only Bejeweled 2. And overall that will affect what kind of customers you add to your regular list of visitors. Real and Bigfish seem to advertise on fairly general interest untargeted sites and so the games that sell best for them are those that appeal to a wide range of tastes. If real had gathered all it's customers by advertising exclusively on quake online servers how well would bejeweled sell versus think tanks in that case? I'd guess think tanks would sell much better.
     
  19. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree 100%. Small stores need to focus on a niche if they want to survive. That is their competitive advantage. They focus on one thing and do that thing better than the big boys. Customers interested in that one thing will prefer to go to the small specialized store where they find more of what they are looking for than if they went to the big mass market store.

    My point is that I think a lot more types of games are main stream enough that they shouldn’t have to rely only on small niche stores. The big main stream stores should be stocking a larger variety. If Real Arcade was a video store I don’t think it would be stocked with all the main stream “Hollywoodâ€￾ movies. “Indieâ€￾ films and anime wouldn’t be the only things missing from the video store version Real Arcade. They would be stocked with mostly chick flicks and have an extremely limited selection of science fiction, action, and some other main stream types of films.

    There are many types of downloadable games that should be main stream. Niche stores should exist for off the wall Indie stuff. But a lot of these games aren’t off the wall and they should be in more than just Niche stores.
     
  20. Nutter2000

    Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    993
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think you're right and that's part of the problem. We're talking about Action, Strategy, Simulation and other such games yet even we are grouping them as "Hardcore".
    I think big publishers such as Real equate "casual" as meaning "mass market" and so when it comes to strategy, etc, they think "hardcore" ie not "casual" and therefore not "mass market".
     

Share This Page

  • About Indie Gamer

    When the original Dexterity Forums closed in 2004, Indie Gamer was born and a diverse community has grown out of a passion for creating great games. Here you will find over 10 years of in-depth discussion on game design, the business of game development, and marketing/sales. Indie Gamer also provides a friendly place to meet up with other Developers, Artists, Composers and Writers.
  • Buy us a beer!

    Indie Gamer is delicately held together by a single poor bastard who thankfully gets help from various community volunteers. If you frequent this site or have found value in something you've learned here, help keep the site running by donating a few dollars (for beer of course)!

    Sure, I'll Buy You a Beer