Do You Like it Casual or Hardcore? Or in the Middle?

Mark Stephens

Social gaming and the advance of technology has blurred the lines between hardcore gamer and casual gamer and introduced a new term, “midcore”, into our dictionary. No longer can the “hardcore gamer” simply be defined as the geek queuing overnight in the snow to buy the new version of Call of Duty and playing it all day locked in his room; and the “casual gamer” is not just the mum who spends her spare time playing Freecell or Solitaire on the family computer. So what’s happening in the shifting sands of gaming? And what would you classify yourself as?


Is all Social and Mobile Gaming Casual?

The social network revolution has met the mobile revolution to create whole new legions of gamers who play on the bus to work or while waiting for their date to show up to the restaurant.

This infographic shows the average social gamers are middle-aged women, many of whom have college degrees, are married with children and have jobs.

Many gamers have effectively been created out of “thin air”; people who would never have purchased gaming consoles or even spent money on PC games, but it’s just too damned easy to download a free game and play, with a laptop, smartphone or tablet always at their side.

Who needs a game console? Who needs crystal clear graphics or sound? It’s just for fun…

It’s tempting to call these all “casual gamers” because they often play in their spare time and the games are often simple like_ Candy Crush Saga_ or Bejeweled. But if you add up the total amount of time they play games in a month and it starts to look pretty hardcore! And anyway, mobile games are changing to become more sophisticated, as you will see below.

Traditional Hardcore Gamers

Hardcore gaming spills over into real life the way that casual gaming rarely does; that much still holds true. It still involves paying for specific equipment like consoles and games and spending large amounts of time playing, often for hours on end. Time is blocked out to play, rather than it merely filling a gap in one’s life, and play time is used to master their art.

Hardcore gamers may enter competitions, leagues and special events, and they are normally highly competitive with friends and fellow-gamers. A typical type of hardcore game is a first-person shooter game like Quake or the MMORPG games (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft and League of Legends.

True hardcore games will seemingly have a large following for years to come because there is neither the will nor the way to make these games playable on Facebook, iPads or iPhones anytime soon. Screen size, processing power, limited control interfaces, battery-time, graphics and sound limitations mean that other devices and platforms are required.

Crossover into Midcore

Not all console gamers are hardcore, of course. Fifa and Winning Eleven are good examples of console titles geared towards more social gamers; large numbers of casual gamers are attracted to the social element that has been introduced into these games more recently.

Other games like DOFUS and The Lord of the Rings Online are clearly pitched at gamers who are semi-serious about gaming, but not obsessive. They like their action and their real-life graphics and they love how they can play it on their mobile tablet device anywhere, but they do not usually enter competitions and are not ultra-competitive.

They also usually have plenty of other interests outside of gaming and will not feel compelled to finish a game every time they start it; nor do they have the time to. They may spend money to download game apps and make in-game purchases though.

Thus the “social midcore gamer” has been identified, having risen out of the convergence of social media, home theatre type technology and mobile technology.


Some titles are now marketed to midcore gamers, such as Zynga’s Solistice Arena, which is (surprise surprise) basically a trimmed-down, rip off version of League of Legends; but it is a perfect example of how the crossover has happened between hardcore and casual.

Problems Making the Crossover to Mobile

Quite apart from the technological restrictions making hardcore mobile gaming unlikely for now, publishers have found other problems in serving both the online and mobile markets.

Zynga tried to break the mould by acquiring NewToy and EA by acquiring PopCap, but the successful developers are generally one or the other at present. Cross-platform development is still in its early stages and only a few companies like Social Gaming Network have made a concerted effort to focus on both.

“Mobile-social midcore” seems to be where many of the big guys are heading though, so it is likely to develop quickly. Watch this space for how it shifts the sands of gaming demographics and blurs the lines yet again.