Hardcore gamers, you're a dying breed. Casual games are blowing up, and it seems like everyone wants in on the action. It's easy to see why: from free-to-play web-based games like Bejeweled to the Wii minigame collections clogging retail shelves, the genre commands an audience more than 150 million strong, according to a report by the Casual Games Association. But the industry-wide push to turn grandmas into gamers has raised a worrisome question: as more and more companies shift their attention to these seemingly innocuous games, will more traditional, hardcore experiences fall by the wayside?
Let's step back for a second. Casual games - usually defined as simple games that are easy to get into and relatively inexpensive to make - have been with us for a long, long time. For years now, their biggest audience has been on PCs, where downloadable games like Diner Dash and Cake Mania entertain a mostly older, female demographic more interested in killing time than in killing monsters. With the advent of the Wii and successful game-download services on the 360 and PS3, however, we've seen an explosion in the amount of attention paid toward the genre - as well as a trickle of publishers abandoning more complex games in favor of lower-cost, higher-profit projects on the Wii and DS.