A lot of core gamers and core game developers are, more or less, opposing accessibility design for the reasons that making a game accessible “dumbs down” the game or “makes the game shallow”. Players and developers pushing for accessible games claim that this is not the case. Well let’s just set the record straight with some quick analysis: Accessability does dumb down gameplay and does make games more shallow. But, this is only true for a very small part of the target demographic. This is only true for the power- or core-gamers that fully learn the micro strategies of playing a game and then use that knowledge to play on a macro strategic level. For these players games will become to simple or shallow and certainly dumbed down if we make the games more accessible.
But how many are the core gamers? We have absolutely no idea. But paying core gamers we do know. Very few games, ever, have sold more then 10 million units. But games aimed at the hardcore crowds do tend to sell close to ten million (close in the millions that is, Halo 3 sold 7 million I believe). That means that there are about 10 million core players that really don’t need more accessible games. Doesn’t that make accessability pointless? No. Certainly not.
How many paying players are there? We don’t have a clue. What we do know is that the previous generation of home consoles (dominated by the PS2) sold over 200million units. Even if every single gamer bought two consoles that still 100million home consoles… On the handheld side the GBA sold about that many units alone. So for every core gamer there are about 10 less then core gamers actively paying for consoles and games, maybe just not as much.
This is the crowd that developers are aiming for when they’re focusing on accessibility. This does not mean that all games should be accessible. After all, selling 10 million units of a game is plenty. But selling hardcore multiplayer shooters alone as the industry is doing today is simply incredibly stupid from an economical perspective. No wonder the Wii is selling so well, what else are these gamers playing? Online games some of them for sure (like the 11 million current subscribers to World of Warcraft).
So have no illusions, games are a low entry entertainment. Most gamers don’t want to learn how to play a game. They don’t want to compete or be the best. They simply want to play. Sound odd? Think about why PvE is more popular then PvP in MMO’s or why Multiplayer didn’t explode before the instant respawn became standard or why coop shooters are doing better then deathmatch shooters.
Next time I write about accessibility I’ll adress what low entry entertainment really is and how to focus on it.