Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Why hardcore gamers are the best customers

For a long time, indie game development got completely sidetracked by an unhealthy obsession with making casual games. These games were all made for 40+ ‘soccer moms’ whatever the hell that means. It got so bad that people on the popular indie developer forums even started equating indie with casual, claiming that indie games had to be 2D, use one mouse button and have zero graphical options, so as to minimise ‘confusion’.

These days, from a  developers point of view, casual gaming has imploded.  A single company (BigFishGames) pretty much killed off all the competition, and forced developer cuts so low that they all sodded off to make iphone or facebook games. (“The current goldrush didn’t work, quick! follow the next goldrush!”).

Personally I think indie developers are best off making games for hardcore gamers and here is why.

  • Hardcore gamers have hardware that will run something more demanding than tetris, meaning you can flex your graphical coding muscles.
  • Hardcore gamers spend money on games. Yes, some are sadly pirates, but the ones who aren’t are happy to pay for a decent game. They consider it a serious pastime, and thus worthy of expenditure. Not a coffee-break amusement. Hence, higher prices and deeper games. Yay!
  • Hardcore gamers understand simple tech support steps and bugs and patches. “What video card do you have” actually gets an answer, rather than questions, making tech support much easier.
  • Hardcore gamers are enthusiastic and chatty. They have accounts on web forums where they discuss games they like. They can evangelise your game, if it’s good, to dozens, hundreds or thousands of potential buyers.
  • Hardcore gamers remember the developers name. They know who made World Of Warcraft, and they know you made your game. They are likely to join your newsletter, and may even read it.
  • Hardcore gamers are the forgotten minority. Bad console ports have mistreated PC gamers for years. Give a PC gamer the option to mod a game, run in windowed or fullscreen, and choose graphical options and screen resolutions, and they think its christmas.
  • Hardcore gamers are tough critics with a lot of ideas. This can be a nightmare, but it means you get feedback on your game, what to improve, and what should be added. If you are open-minded about reading feedback from customers, hardcore gamers are a designers best friend.
  • Hardcore gamers are happy to buy a game online that isn’t from amazon or some mega-corp they have heard of. If you have a secure site, then you will get sales.  Hardcore gamers are also more likely to support a developer direct, rather than a portal.

You may disagree, but this is my humble experience :D I have no intention whatsoever of switching to making casual games, or simple games for non gamers. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could make a business case for it to myself, or my cats.

22 thoughts on Why hardcore gamers are the best customers

  1. I thought 40+ soccer moms became leaders of facist HOA’s in america untill the people unite to take away their illusion of authority?

    see ours just go to a mall and sit outside and and heckle all day.

  2. Hardcore gamers are also more likely to actually find your games in the first place.

  3. To be honest I’m glad the “Get Rich Quick” schemers have abandoned the hardcore download gaming market leaving it to those of us who actually want to make games for that market because we enjoy it rather than because we think it will make us super rich overnight.

  4. So true, especially with the crappy console port games. This is even more true with the RPG games. Makes me want to cry…

  5. Cliff, mate, that was a great love letter post, the reasons listed, are the reasons why we love you too.

    (dunno about the cats tho cos I’m a dog person me)

  6. There are still many things to learn from casual games.
    As game-designers of these games think a lot about how to streamline
    the user-game interaction.

    Just making a game complicated to use, (so only hardcore players can play them)
    does not make thee games better.

    Its beter to seperate them into
    casual (simple to grasp gameconcept, quick to play)

    and complex/imergent
    (deeper structure of choices, more content and higher learingtime)

    Giving a lot of tuning and gameplay options, can also be done
    in a clever way. So that “casual” games and hardcore games can “use”
    the game alike.
    Blizzard is a prime example of that.

  7. could you remake Premier Manager 2?

    Ive been playing it recently and i cant work out whats better, CM 01/02 or PM2.

    Just programme it so it works nicely on XP/Vista/7, increase the resolution etc.

  8. Definitely very accurate points. I buy lots of games. I hate bad console ports. I love indie games that try to do something interesting that you don’t see in AAA titles. And once I find a developer I like, I keep buying from him! I’ve bought most of your releases and there are a few other companies I enthusiastically support.

  9. Quote ” Hardcore gamers are the forgotten minority. Bad console ports have mistreated PC gamers for years. ”

    I love you.

    Been saying that to anyone who will listen for years. I HATE the crappy console ports, and those god damn checkpoint systems. We have hard drives, let us use them!

  10. It’s great to see that there are developers out there that get it, Cliff. I first came across you – and then GSB – after reading your gaming piracy rant a while back and it really is refreshing to see someone bucking the trend of “PC games aren’t worth the effort”, something that I find to be a dubious claim.

    Yes it’s true, if you spend the majority of your time making a console game and then expend minimal effort on “porting” it to run on PCs, you’re going to end up with poor sales and even poorer return sales in the future. Does this mean that PC gaming is dieing or, in fact, dead? I’m guessing Valve would disagree with that statement.

    But I am ranting – My main point is that it’s great to see a dev out there giving the “hardcore” PC gamer some love. I hope it pays you significant dividends, my friend. :)

  11. Excellent article, Cliff. Having spent the last two years making games for casual publishers (and only just getting back into hardcore PC games) I can appreciate what you’ve said. I only disagree with the last one.

    “Hardcore gamers are also more likely to support a developer direct, rather than a portal.”

    I have heard “I’ll buy once it’s on steam!” too many times to believe this is true. Much in the same way that casual players will say “I’ll buy once it’s on Big Fish.” Ah well. State of the biz, I guess.

  12. “pirates”

    I think “pirate” is far too glamorous a term. They are thieves.

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