Bridge Games • Page 2

E3 had plenty of core games and casual games - but where are the titles to span that gap?

The company having by far the most trouble with this concept was undoubtedly Microsoft. Kinect's technical prowess couldn't disguise the fracture down the middle of the Xbox conference - on one side stood burly, blood-splattered, face-stomping Gears of War 3, and on the other side, a small girl playing with a virtual tiger cub, and there wasn't a whole lot in the middle. (Admittedly, I found the creepily anthropomorphic tiger cub to be far more terrifying than anything on offer in Gears, but I don't think that was the reaction either developer was angling for.)

Microsoft deserves some breathing room here. Sony and Nintendo have been playing both sides of the field for many years, and are only now learning how to bridge the gap between them most effectively - Sony titles such as Sorcery and the Move edition of Heavy Rain could be very effective as bridge games, although right now we're still waiting to see the casual titles which will bring that end of the market in in the first place.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has spent the past few years focusing - with enormous success - on dominating the hardcore end of the gaming spectrum, with only throwaway gestures towards the casual market. Turning this tanker around is going to be tough - and quite rightly, the company doesn't want to alienate the hardcore fans it's spent billions of dollars appealing to in the first place.

It's right and proper that franchises like Gears of War should be front and centre for Microsoft, just as it's absolutely right for Nintendo to focus on some of its beloved core franchises after a few years in which the balance was (arguably) tipped in the other direction, if not in terms of actual releases then certainly in terms of marketing and publicity.

However, it needs software that spans the gap between the two camps of offerings which are emerging on Xbox 360 - games that encourage players of Dance Central or Your Shape to move upstream and explore. It's unlikely, perhaps, that they'll ever end up kerb-stomping crinkle-faced nasties in Cliff Bleszinski's latest, but we're a long way past the point of the Xbox being all about shooting and driving, even if the public perception hasn't quite moved with the software line-up.

The long-term challenge for the games market must, ultimately, be to emulate the success which other mediums have had in creating markets where consumers routinely and happily move between genres, and where franchises which would be pigeonholed as "hardcore" in the games world nestle comfortably in people's DVD collections alongside those which would be dismissed as "casual".

Games haven't yet reached that point, and while the motion controllers which have dominated E3 conferences may turn out to be a step in the right direction, they are not a panacea. It's a mantra made dull by the frequency with which it's repeated, but one which remains utterly true - it's all about the software (well, partially about the marketing - but mostly about the software).

The task of bridging the gap, of opening up the casual ghetto and encouraging all these new players to experience a wider range of games, falls heavily on the shoulders of game designers, regardless of what new toys are added to their arsenals by platform holders.

For more views on the industry and to keep up to date with news relevant to the games business, read our sister website GamesIndustry.biz, where you can read this weekly editorial column as soon as it is posted.

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About the author

Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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