Role Playing Games are in depth games, requiring players to literally act and immerse themselves within a new world. In contrast, casual gamers are by definition, casual, fleeting, they do not spend the time to get to know a world and discover its many secrets. So why is it that the RPG genre’s of late have been converting their games to fit the needs of the casual gamer?
Are you asking “are they really making RPGs for casual gamers?” By all means, allow me to explain. Games of old, such as the Final Fantasy series gave little to no clues as to where you should go next in order to advance the main campaign; this was fairly common in all RPG games prior to the sixth generation of consoles (Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox). It was during the sixth generation that easy location maps became more prevalent. Now in the seventh console generation (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) we find a plethora of games coming out with mapping systems. Not only leading players to the next quest location but to the individual tasks within that quest. My example for this is Fable 2 which provided a golden line directly to the location of the next task in every quest. A game which may have taken forty or more hours without the easy mapping system was then made into a simple “follow the yellow brick road” game which I completed in less than twelve hours.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. RPGs have an average gameplay far greater to that of other genres. The main campaign for an RGP can be anywhere from ten to one hundred hours, whereas a genre such as FPS (First Person Shooter) is unlikely to take more than ten hours of gameplay to complete the main campaign. To a hardcore fan, playing for fifty or even one hundred hours is no big deal. But to market that type of game to a casual gamer would be suicidal for sales. Casual gamers are not looking for one hundred hours of quality gameplay; they are looking for fifteen minutes to a few hours of entertaining gameplay.
To some hardcore fans it may seem a despicable ploy of designers to alter the gameplay of RPGs to allow for casual gamers. However, I foresee these additions to the RPG genre as a benefit; allowing casual gamers to have their short fling of fun and hardcore gamers to still escape into a new world. Hardcore gamers can sometimes act like a clique (“we don’t want newbs messing around in our worlds”) but this new addition to gaming is only a slight degrade in gameplay. In exchange for the degrade RPG developers can sell enough games to afford bread and wine for their dinner tables (or more hopefully additional DLC for the games).
In addition, for fans like myself, who want to trial all the RPGs available; it becomes impossible to put in all the hours necessary. Therefore, a gamer is left with multiple incomplete games (which is extremely unnerving). With this new system gamers have the ability to quickly make their way through RPGs that they deem interesting and devote serious gaming hours to their favorite RPGs.
So why has the industry turned to help the casual gamer? It’s not because they care more about making money (well that is part of it) but more than likely it is because they want to build a gaming model which fits the increasingly complicated lifestyles of hardcore fans. Yes, it allows them to sell the game to vastly more casual fans, but more importantly it means improved functionality for RPG fanatics.